Chapter IVI went to the Pentagon the next morning. I didn't expect to learn much, but I wanted to make sure we weren't tangling with security.
I'd worked with Al Scholin and Orville Splitt, in the magazine section of Public Relations, and I thought they'd tell me as much as anyone. When I walked in, I sprang it on them cold.
"What's the chance of seeing your Project 'Saucer' files?"
Al Scholin took it more or less dead-pan. Splitt looked at me a moment and then grinned.
"Don't tell me you believe the things are real?"
"Maybe," I said. "How about clearing me with Project 'Saucer'?"
Al shook his head. "It's still classified secret."
"Look, Don," said Splitt, "why do you want to fool with that saucer business? There's nothing to it."
"That's a big change from what the Air Force was saying in 1947," I told him.
He shrugged that off. "The Air Force has spent two years checking into it. Everybody from Symington down will tell you the saucers are bunk."
"That's not what Project 'Saucer' says in that April report."
"That report was made up a long time ago," said Splitt. "They just got around to releasing it."
"Then they've got all the answers now?"
"They know there's nothing to it," Splitt repeated.
"In that case," I said, ‘Project 'Saucer' shouldn't object to my seeing their files and pictures."
"That one taken at Harmon Field, Newfoundland, for a starter."
"Oh, that thing," said Splitt. "It wasn't anything- just a shadow on a cloud. Somebody's been kidding you."
"If it's just a cloud shadow, why can't I see it?"
Splitt was getting a little nettled.
"It's funny about that April twenty-seventh report," I said, "the way it contradicts the Post."
"I tell you that was an old report"
"I wouldn't say that," Al Scholin put in. "The Air Force doesn't claim it has all the answers. But they've proved a lot of the reports were hoaxes or mistakes."
"Just the same," I said, "the Air Force is on record, as of April twenty-seventh, that it's serious enough for everybody to be vigilant. And they admit most of the things in the important cases, are still unidentified. Including the saucer Mantell was chasing."
"That business at Godman Field was some kind of hallucination," insisted Splitt.
"I suppose all those pilots and Godman Field officers were hypnotized? Not to mention several thousand people at Madisonville and Fort Knox?"
"Take it easy, you guys," said Al Scholin. "You've both got a right to your opinions."
"Oh sure," said Splitt. He looked at me, with his grin back. "I don't care if you think they're men from Mars."
"Let's not go off the deep end," I said. "Tell me this: Did Shallett get to see any secret files at Wright Field?"
"Then he had to take the Air Force word for every thing?"
"Not entirely. We set up some interviews for him."
"One more thing - and don't get mad. If it's all bunk, why haven't they closed Project 'Saucer'?"
"How do I know? Probably no one wants to take the responsibility."
"Then somebody high up must not think its bunk," I said.
Splitt laughed. "Have it your own way."
Before I left, I told them I was working with True.
"I want to be on record," I said, "as having told you
Al Scholin said emphatically, "It's not an Air Force device, if that's what you mean."
"Some people think it's Russian."
"If it is, I don't know it," said Al, "and neither does the Air Force."
After I left the magazine section, I tried several officers I knew. Two of them agreed with Splitt. The third didn't.
"I've been told its all bunk," he said, "but you get the feeling they've trying to convince themselves. They act like people near a haunted house. They'll swear it isn't haunted - but they won't go near it."
Later, I asked a security major for a copy of the Project "Saucer" report.
"We're out of copies right now," he said. "I'll send you one next week."
I asked him bluntly what he thought the saucers were,
"I doubt if anybody has the full answer," he said seriously. "There's been some hysteria - also a few mistakes. But many reports have been made by reliable pilots, including our own. You can't laugh those off."
As I drove home, I thought over what I'd heard. All I had learned was that the Air Force seemed divided. But that could be a smoke screen In less than twenty-four hours; I received my first suspicious tip. It was about ten A.M, when my phone rang.
"Mr. Keyhoe? This is John Steele," said the voice at the other end. (Because of the peculiar role he played, then and later, I have not used his real name.) "I'm a former Air Force Intelligence officer. I was in the European theater during the war."
I waited. He hesitated a moment.
"I heard you're working on the flying-saucer problem," he said quickly. "I may have some information ~ that would interest you."
"Mind telling me who told you I was on it?" I asked.
"No one, directly. I just happened to hear it mentioned at the Press Club. Frankly, I've been curious about the flying saucers ever since '45"'
That startled me, but I didn't tell him so.
"No, I've just begun checking. But I'd be glad to hear what you've got."
"I may be way off," said Steele. "But I've always wondered about the 'foo fighters' our pilots saw over Europe near the end of the war."
I thought for a second. "Wasn't that some kind of missile fired from the ground?"
"No. Intelligence never did get any real answer, so far as I know. They were some kind of circular gadgets, they actually chased our planes a number of times. We thought they were something the Nazis had invented - and I still think so."
"Then who's launching them now?"
"Well, it's obviously either Russia or us. If it is the Soviet - well, that's what's worried me. I don't think it should be treated like a joke, the way some people in Pentagon take it."
I stared at the phone, trying to figure him out.
"I'd like to talk it over with you," I said. "Maybe you've got something."
"I've given you about all I know," Steele answered. "There was an Intelligence report you might try to see - the Eighth Air Force files should have it."
"Wait a minute," I said. "Give me your number, in case I find anything."
He gave it to me without apparent hesitation. I thanked him and hung up, still wondering.
If it was an attempt at a plant, it was certainly crude. The mention of his former Air Force connection would be enough to arouse suspicion unless he counted on his apparent frankness to offset it.
And what about the Press Club angle? That would indicate Steele was a newspaperman. Could this be merely an attempt to pump me and get a lead on True's investigation? But that would be just as crude as the other idea. Of course, he might be sincere. But regardless of his motives, it looked bad. And who had told him about me?
I thought about that for a minute. Then I picked up the phone and dialed Jack Daly's number.
"Nobody I know," said Jack. "Why, what's up?"
I explained, and added, "I thought maybe you knew him, and he'd heard about it from you."
"Hell, no," said Jack. "You ought to know I wouldn't leak any tip like that."
"It wouldn't be a tip - I don't know anything about this deal yet. By the way, when you were on the Star did you handle anything on 'foo fighters'?"
"No, that was after I left there. Bill Shippen would have covered that, anyway."
I told him I would look it up in the Star's morgue. Jack said he would meet me there at three o'clock; in the meantime he would see what he could find out about Steele.
Jack was a little late, and I went over the Star's file on the foo fighters. Most of the facts were covered in a story dated July 6, 1947, which had been inspired by the outbreak of the saucer scare. I copied it for later use:
During the latter part of World War Two, fighter pilots in England were convinced that Hitler had a new secret weapon. Yanks dubbed these devices 'foo fighters" or "Kraut fireballs."
One of the Air Force Intelligence men now assigned to check on the saucer scare was an officer who investigated statements of military airmen that circular foo fighters were seen over Europe and also on the bombing route to Japan.
It was reported that intelligence officers have never obtained satisfactory explanation of reports of flying silver balls and disks over Nazi-occupied Europe in the winter of 1944-45. Later, crews of B-29's on bombing runs to Japan reported seeing somewhat similar objects.
In Europe, some foo fighters danced just off the Allied fighters' wingtips and played tag with them in power dives. Others appeared in precise formations and on one occasion. a whole bomber crew
saw about 15 following at a distance, their strange glow flashing on and off. One foo fighter chased Lieutenant Meiers of Chicago some 20 miles down the Rhine Valley, at 300 m.p.h., an A.P. war correspondent reported. Intelligence officers believed at that time that the balls might be radar-controlled objects sent up to foul ignition systems or baffle Allied radar networks.
There is no explanation of their appearance here, unless the objects could have been imported for secret tests in this country.I read the last paragraph twice. This looked like a strong lead to the answer, in spite of the Air Force denials. There was another, less pleasant possibility. The Russians could have seized the device and developed it secretly, using Nazi scientists to help them. Perhaps the Nazis had been close to an atomic engine, even if they did fail to produce the bomb.
Jack Daly came in while I was reading the story again.
"I got the dope on Steele," he said. "He does pieces for a small syndicate, and I found out he was in the Air Force. I think he was a captain. People who know him say he's O.K.- a straight shooter."
"That still wouldn't keep him from giving me a fake tip, if somebody told him it was the right thing to do."
"Maybe not," said Jack, "but why would they want to plant this foo-fighter idea?"
I showed him the clipping. He read it over and shook his head.
"That's a lot different from disks three hundred feet in diameter."
"If we got the principle - or Russia did - building big ones might not be too hard."
"I still can't swallow it," said Jack. "These things have been seen all over the world. How could they control them that far away - and be sure they wouldn't crash, where somebody could get a look and dope out the secret?"
We argued it back and forth without getting anywhere.
Jack nodded. "I'll see what I can do. But I can't dig too hard, or he'll hear about it."
On the way out, I found a phone booth and called Splitt.
"Foo fighters?" he said. "Sure, I remember those stories. You think those are your flying saucers?"
I could hear him snicker.
"Just checking angles," I said. "Didn't the Eighth Air Force investigate the foo fighters?"
"Yes, and they found nothing to back up the pilots' yarns. Just war nerves, apparently."
"How about a look at the Intelligence report?" I asked.
"Wait a minute." Splitt was gone for twice that time, then he came back. "Sorry, it's classified."
"If all this stuff is bunk, why keep the lid on it?" I demanded. I was getting sore again.
"Look, Don," said Splitt, "I don't make the rules."
"Sure, I know - sorry," I said. I had a notion to ask him if he knew John Steele, but hung up instead. There was no use in banging my head against the Air Force wall.
The next day I decided to analyze the Mantell case, from beginning to end. It looked like the key to one angle: the question of an Air Force secret missile. Unless there was some slip-up, so that Mantell and his pilots had been ordered to chase the disk by mistake, then it would be cold murder.
I couldn't believe any Air Force officer would give such an order, no matter how tremendous the secret to be hidden.
But I was going to find out, if possible.
Chapter VFor more than two weeks, I checked on the Godman Field tragedy. One fact stood out at the start: The death of Mantell had had a profound effect on many in the Air Force. A dozen times I was told:
"I thought the saucers were a joke - until Mantell was killed chasing that thing at Fort Knox."
Many ranking officers who had laughed at the saucer scare stopped scoffing. One of these was General Sory Smith, now Deputy Director of Air Force Public Relations. Later in my investigation, General Smith told me:
"It was the Mantell case that got me. I knew Tommy Mantell very well - also Colonel Hix, the C.O. at Godman. I knew they were both intelligent men not the kind to be imagining things."
For fifteen months, the Air Force kept a tight-lipped silence. Meantime, rumors began to spread. One report said that Mantell had been shot, his body riddled with bullets; his P-51 also riddled, had simply disintegrated. Another rumor reported Mantell as having been killed by some mysterious force; this same force had also destroyed his fighter. The Air Force, the rumors said, had covered up the truth by telling Mantell's family he had blacked out from lack of oxygen.
Checking the last angle, I found that this was the explanation given to Mantell's mother. Just after his death, she was told by Standiford Field officers that he had flown too high in chasing the strange object.
Shallet, in the Saturday Evening Post articles, described Project "Saucer's" reconstruction of the case. Mantell was said to have climbed up to 25,000 feet, despite his firm decision to end the chase at 20,000, since he carried no oxygen. Around 25,000 feet, Shallett quoted the Air Force investigators, Mantell must have lost consciousness. After this, his pilotless plane climbed on up to some 30,000 feet, then dived. Between 20,000 and 10,000 feet, Shallet suggested, the P-51 began to disintegrate, obviously from excessive speed. The gleaming object that
The Air Force Project "Saucer" report of April 27, 1949, released just after the first Post article, makes these statements:
"Five minutes after Mantell disappeared from his formation, the two remaining planes returned to Godman. A few minutes later, one resumed the search, covering territory 100 miles to the south as high as 33,000feet, but found nothing.
"Subsequent investigation revealed that Mantell had probably blacked out at 20,000 feet from lack of oxygen and had died of suffocation before the crash.
"The mysterious object which the flyer chased to his death was first identified as the Planet Venus. However, further probing showed the elevation and azimuth readings of Venus and the object at specified time intervals did not coincide.
"It is still considered 'Unidentified.'"
The Venus explanation, even though now denied, puzzled me. It was plain that the Air Force had seriously considered offering it as the answer, then abandoned it. Apparently someone had got his signals mixed and let Shallett use the discarded answer. And for some unknown reason, the Air Force had found it imperative to deny the Venus story at once.
In these first weeks of checking, I had run onto the Venus explanation in other cases. Several Air Force officers repeated it so quickly that it had the sound of a stock alibi. But in the daytime cases this was almost ridiculous.
I knew of a few instances in World War II when bomber crews and antiaircraft gunners had loosed a few bursts at Venus. But this was mostly at night, when the planet was at peak brilliance. And more than one gunner later admitted firing to relieve long hours of boredom. Since enemy planes did not carry lights, there was no authentic case, to my knowledge, where plane or ground gunners actually believed Venus was an enemy aircraft.
"It simply could not have been Venus. They must have been desperate even to suggest it in the first place."
Months later, in the secret Project "Saucer" report released December 30, 1949, I found official confirmation of this astronomer's opinions. Since it has a peculiar bearing on the Mantell case, I am quoting it now:
When Venus is at its greatest brilliance, it is possible to see it during daytime when one knows exactly where to look. But on January 7, 1948, Venus was less than half as bright as its peak brilliance. However, under exceptionally good atmospheric conditions, and with the eye shielded from direct rays of the sun, Venus might be seen as an exceedingly tiny bright point of light. However, the chances of looking at just the right spot are very few.It has been unofficially reported that the object was a Navy cosmic-ray research balloon. If this can be established, it is to be preferred as an explanation. However, if one accepts the assumption that reports from various other localities refer to the same object, any such device must have been a good many miles high - 25 to 50 - in order to have been seen clearly, almost simultaneously, from places 175 miles apart.
If all reports were of a single object, in the knowledge of this investigator no man-made object could have been large enough and far enough away for the approximate simultaneous sightings. It is most unlikely, however, that so many separated persons should at that time have chanced on Venus in the daylight sky. It seems therefore much more probable that more than one object was involved.
The sighting might have included two or more balloons (or aircraft) or they, might have included Venus and balloons. For reasons given above, the latter explanation seems more likely.
Two things stand out in his report:1. The obvious determination to fit some explanation, no matter how farfetched, to the Mantell sighting.
2. The impossibility that Venus - a tiny point of light, seen only with difficulty - was the tremendous metallic object described by Mantell and seen by Godman Field officers.
With Venus eliminated, I went to work on the balloon theory. Since I had been a balloon pilot before learning to fly planes, this was fairly familiar ground.
Shallett's alternate theory that Mantell had chased a Navy research balloon was widely repeated by readers unfamiliar with balloon operation. Few thought to check the speeds, heights, and distances involved.
Cosmic-ray research balloons are not powered; they are set free to drift with the wind. This particular Navy type is released at a base near Minneapolis. The gas bag is filled with only a small percent of its helium capacity before the take-off.
In a routine flight, the balloon ascends rapidly to a very high altitude - as high as 100,000 feet. By this time the gas bag has swelled to full size, about 100 feet high and 70 feet in diameter. At a set time, a device releases the case of instruments under the balloon. The instruments descend by parachute, and the balloon, rising quickly, explodes from the sudden expansion.
Occasionally a balloon starts leaking, and it then remains relatively low. At first glance, this might seem the answer to the Kentucky sightings. If the balloon were low enough, it would loom up as a large circular object, as seen from directly below. Some witnesses might estimate its diameter as 250 feet or more, instead of its actual 70 feet. But this failure to recognize a balloon would require incredibly poor vision on the part of trained observers, state police, Army M.P.'s, the Godman Field officers, Mantell and his pilots.
Captain Mantell was a wartime pilot, with over three thousand hours in the air. He was trained to identify a distant enemy plane in a split second. His vision was perfect, and so was that of his pilots. In broad daylight,
Colonel Hix and the other Godman officers watched the object with high-powered glasses for long periods. It is incredible that they would not identify it as a balloon.
Before its appearance over Godman Field, the leaking balloon would have drifted, at a low altitude, over several hundred miles. (A leak large enough to bring it down from high altitude would have caused it to land and be found.) Drifting at a low altitude, it would have been seen by several hundred thousand people, at the very least. Many would have reported it as a balloon. But even if this angle is ignored it still could not possibly have been a balloon at low altitude. The fast flight from Madisonville, the abrupt stop and hour-long hovering at Godman Field, the quick bursts of speed Mantell reported make it impossible. To fly the 90 miles from Madisonville to Fort Knox in 30 minutes, a balloon would require a wind of 180 m.p.h. After traveling at this hurricane speed, it would then have had to come to a dead stop above Godman Field. As the P-61's approached, it would have had to speed up again to 180, then to more than 360 to keep ahead of Mantell.
The three fighter pilots chased the mysterious object for half an hour. (I have several times chased balloons with a plane, overtaking them in seconds.) In a straight chase, Mantell would have been closing in at 36o; the tail wind acting on his fighter would nullify the balloon's forward drift.
But even if you accept these improbable factors, there is one final fact that nullifies the balloon explanation. The strange object had disappeared when Mantell's wingman searched the sky, just after the leader's death. If it had been a balloon held stationary for an hour at a high altitude and glowing brightly enough to be seen through clouds, it would have remained visible in the same general position. Seen from 33,000 feet, it would have been even brighter, because of the clearer air.
But the mysterious object had completely vanished in
Whether at a high or low altitude, a balloon could not have escaped the pilot's eyes. It would also have continued to be seen at Godman Field and other points, through occasional breaks in the clouds.
I pointed out these facts to one Air Force officer at the Pentagon. Next day he phoned me:
"I figured it out. The timing device went off and the balloon exploded. That's why the pilot didn't see it."
"It's an odd coincidence," I said, "that it exploded in those five minutes after Mantell's last report."
"Even so, it's obviously the answer," he said.
Checking on this angle, I found:
1. No one in the Kentucky area had reported a descending parachute.
2. No cosmic-ray research instrument case or parachute was found in the area.
3. No instruments were returned to the Navy from this region. And all balloons and instruments released at that time were fully accounted for.
Even if it had been a balloon, it would not explain the later January 7th reports - the simultaneous sightings mentioned by Professor Hynek in the Project "Saucer" report. This includes the thing seen at Lockbourne Air Force Base two hours after Mantell's death.
Obviously, the saucer seen flying at 500 m.p.h. over Lockbourne Field could not have been a balloon. Even if there had been several balloons in this area (and there were not, by official record), they could not have covered the courses reported. In some cases, they would have been flying against the wind, at terrific speed.
Then what was the mysterious object? And what killed Mantell?
Both the Air Force and the Post articles speculate that Mantell carelessly let himself black out.
Since some explanation had to be given, this might seem a good answer. But Mantell was known for cool-headed judgment. As a wartime pilot, he was familiar with signs of anoxia (oxygen starvation). That he knew his tolerance for altitude is proved by his firmly declared
Mantell had his altimeter to warn him. From experience, he would recognize the first vague blurring, narrowing of vision, and other signs of anoxia. Despite this, the "blackout" explanation was accepted as plausible by many Americans.
While investigating the Mantell case, I talked with several pilots and aeronautical engineers. Several questioned that a P-51 starting a dive from 20,000 feet would have disintegrated so thoroughly.
"From thirty thousand feet, yes," said one engineer. "If the idea was to explain it away, I'd pick a high altitude to start from. But a pilotless plane doesn't necessarily dive, as you know.
"It might slip off and spin, or spiral down and a few have even landed themselves. Also, if the plane started down from twenty thousand, the pilot wouldn't be too far blacked out. The odds are he'd come to when he got into thicker air - admitting he did blur out, which is only an Air Force guess. I don't see why they're so positive Mantell died before he hit the ground - unless they know; something we don't."
One of the pilot group put it more bluntly.
"It looks like a cover-up to me. I think Mantell did just what he said he would - close in on the thing. I think he either collided with it, or more likely they knocked him out of the air. They'd think he was trying to bring them down, barging in like that."
Even if you accept the blackout answer, it still does not explain what Mantell was chasing. It is possible that, excited by the huge, mysterious object, he recklessly climbed beyond the danger level, though such an act was completely at odds with his character.
But the identity of the thing remains - officially - a mystery. If it was some weird experimental craft or a guided missile, then whose was it? Air Force officers had repeatedly told me they had no such device. General Carl Touhy Spaatz, former Air Force chief, had publicly insisted that no such weapon had been developed in his regime. Secretary Symington and General Hoyt Vandenberg,
If it were an Air Force device, then I could see only one answer for the Godman Field incident: The thing was such a closely guarded secret that even Colonel Hix hadn't known. That would mean that most or all Air Force Base C.O.'s were also in ignorance of the secret device.
Could it be a Navy experiment, kept secret from the Air Force?
I did a little checking.
Admiral Calvin Bolster, chief of aeronautics research experimental craft, was an Annapolis classmate of mine. So was Captain Delmer S. Fahrney, head of the Navy guided-missile program. Fahrney was at Point Mugu, missile testing base in California, and I wasn't able to see him. But I knew him as a careful, conscientious officer; I can't believe he would let such a device, piloted or not, hover over an Air Force base with no warning to its C.O.
I saw Admiral Bolster. His denial seemed genuine; unless he'd got to be a dead-pan poker player since our earlier days, I was sure he was telling the truth.
The only other alternate was Russia. It was incredible that they would develop such a device and then expose it to the gaze of U.S. Air Force officers. It could be photographed, its speed and maneuverability checked; it might crash, or antiaircraft fire might bring it down. The secret might be lost in one such test flight.
There was one other explanation: The thing was not intended to be seen; it had got out of control. In this event, the long hovering period at Godman Field was caused by the need for repairs inside the flying saucer, or repairs to remote-control apparatus.
If it were Air Force or Navy, that would explain official concern; even if completely free of negligence, the service responsible would be blamed for Mantell's death. If it were Russian, the Air Force would of course try to conceal the fact for fear of public hysteria.
But if the device was American, it meant that Project
By the time I finished my check-up, I was sure of one thing: This particular saucer had been real.
I was almost positive of one other point - that the thing had been over 30 miles high during part of its flight. I found that after Mantell's death it was reported simultaneously from Madisonville, Elizabethtown, and Lexington - over a distance of 175 miles. (Professor Hynek's analysis later confirmed this.)
How low it had been while hovering over Godman, and during Mantell's chase, there was no way to determine. But all the evidence pointed to a swift ascent after Mantell's last report.
Had Mantell told Godman Tower more than the Air Force admitted? I went back to the Pentagon and asked for a full transcript of the flight leader's radio messages. I got a quick turn-down. The reports, I was told, were still classified as secret. Requests for pictures of the P-51 wreckage, and for a report on the condition of Mantell's body, also drew a blank. I had heard that some photographs were taken of the Godman Field saucer from outside the tower. But the Air Force denied knowledge of any such pictures.
Puzzling over the riddle, I remembered John Steele, the former Intelligence captain. If by any chance he was a plant, it would be interesting to suggest the various answers and watch his reaction. When I phoned him to suggest luncheon, Steele accepted at once. We met at the Occidental, on Pennsylvania Avenue. Steele was younger than I had expected - not over twenty-five. He was a tall man, with a crew haircut and the build of a football player. Looking at him the first time, I expected a certain breeziness. Instead, he was almost solemn.
"I owe you an apology," he said in a careful voice after
I wondered if he'd found out Jack Daly was checking on him.
"When you mentioned the Press Club," I said, "I gathered you were in the business."
"I'm afraid you thought I was fishing for a lead." Steele looked at me earnestly. "I'm not working on the story - I'm tied up on other stuff."
"Forget it," I told him.
He seemed anxious to reassure me. "I'd been worried for some time about the saucers. I called you that night on an impulse."
"Glad you did," I said. "I need every tip I can get."
"Did it help you any?"
"Yes, though it still doesn't fit together. But I can tell you this: The saucers are real, or at least one of them."
"The thing Captain Mantell was chasing near Fort Knox, before he died."
"Oh, that one." Steele looked down at the roll he was buttering. "I thought that case was fully explained. Wasn't he chasing a balloon?"
"The Air Force says it's still unidentified." I told him what I had learned, "Apparently you're right - it's either an American or a Soviet missile."
"After what you've told me," said Steele, "I can't believe it's ours. It must be Russian."
"They'd be pretty stupid to test it over here."
"You said it was probably out of control."
"That particular one, maybe. But there have been several hundred seen over here. If they found their controls were haywire, they wouldn't keep testing the things until they'd corrected that."
The waiter came with the soup, and Steele was silent until he left.
"I still can't believe it's our weapon," he said slowly. "They wouldn't have Air Force pilots alerted to chase the things. And I happen to know they do."
"There's something queer about this missile angle," I said. "That saucer was seen at the same time by people a
Steele didn't answer for a moment.
"Obviously, that was an illusion," he finally answered. "I'd discount those estimates."
"Even Mantell's? And the Godman Field officers'?"
"Not knowing the thing's height, how could they judge accurately?"
"To be seen at points that far apart, it had to be over thirty miles high," I told him. "It would have to be huge to show up at all."
He shook his head. "I can't believe those reports are right. It must have been sighted at different times."
I let it drop.
"What are you working on now?" Steele asked, after a minute or two.
I said I hadn't decided. Actually, I planned a trip to the coast, to interview pilots who had sighted flying disks.
"What would you do if you found it wasn't a Soviet missile?" said Steele. He sounded almost too casual.
"If security was involved, I'd keep still. But the Air Force and the Navy swear they haven't any such things."
Steele looked at me thoughtfully.
"You know, True might force something into the open that would be better left secret." He smiled ironically. "I realize that sounds peculiar, since I suggested the Russian angle. But if it isn't Russian - though I still think it is - then we have nothing to worry about."
I was almost sure now that he was a plant. During the rest of the luncheon, I tried to draw him out, but Steele was through talking. When we parted, he gave me a sober warning.
"You and True should consider your moral responsibility, no matter what you find. Even if it's not actual security, there may be reasons to keep still."
After he left me, I tried to figure it out. If the Air was back of this, they must not think much of my intelligence. Or else they had been in such a hurry to get on True's investigation that they had no choice but
Either way, his purpose was obvious. He hoped to have us swallow the Soviet-missile answer. If we did, then we would have to keep still, even though we found absolute proof. Obviously, it would be dangerous to print that story.
Thinking back, I recalled Steele's apparent attempt to dismiss the Mantell case. I was convinced now. The Godman Field affair must hold an important clue that I had overlooked. It might even be the key to the whole flying saucer riddle.
Chapter VIShortly after my talk with Steele, I flew to the Coast. For three weeks I investigated sightings that had been reported by airline and private pilots and other competent witnesses.
At first, the airline pilots were reluctant to talk. Most of them remembered the ridicule that had followed published accounts by other airline men. One pilot told me he had been ordered to keep still about his experience - whether by the company or the Air Force, he would not say. But most of them finally agreed to talk, if I kept their names out of print.
One airline captain - I'll call him Blake - had encountered a saucer at night. He and his copilot had sighted the object, gleaming in the moonlight, half a mile to their left.
"We were at about twelve thousand feet," he said, "when we saw this thing pacing us. It didn't have any running lights, but we could see the moonlight reflecting from something like bright metal. There was a glow along the side, like some kind of light, or exhaust."
"Could you make out the shape?" I asked.
Blake grinned crookedly. "You think we didn't try? I cut in toward it. It turned in the same direction. I pulled up about three hundred feet, and it did the same. Finally, I opened my throttles and cut in fast, intending to pull up if we got too close. I needn't have worried. The thing let out a burst of reddish flame and streaked up out of sight. It was gone in a few seconds."
"Then it must have been piloted," I said.
"If not, it had some kind of radar-responder unit to make it veer off when anything got near it. It matched every move I made, until the last one."
I asked him what he thought the saucer was. Blake hesitated, then he gave me a slow grin.
"Well, my copilot thinks it was a space ship. He says no pilot here on earth could take that many G's, when the thing zoomed."
"You don't believe that?" I said.
"No," Blake said. "I figure it was some new type of guided missile. If it took as many G's as Chuck, my co pilot, thinks, then it must have been on a beam and remote-controlled."
Later, I found two other pilots who had the same idea as Chuck. One captain was afraid the flying saucers were Russian; his copilot thought they were Air Force or Navy. I met one airline official who was indignant about testing such missiles near the airways.
"Even if they do have some device to make them veer off," he said, "I think it's a risk. There'll be hell to pay if one ever hits an airliner"
"They've been flying around for two years," a line pilot pointed out. "Nobody's had a close call yet. I don't think there's much danger."
When I left the Coast, I flew to New York. Ken Purdy called in John DuBarry, True's aviation editor; to hear the details. Purdy called him "John the Skeptic." After I told them what I had learned Purdy nodded.
"What do you think the saucers are?" asked DuBarry.
"They must be guided missiles," I said, "but it leaves some queer gaps in the picture."
I had made up a list of possible answers, and I read it to them:
"One, the saucers don't exist. They're caused by mistakes, hysteria, and so on. Two, they're Russian guided missiles. Three, they're American guided missiles. Four, the whole thing is a hoax, a psychological-warfare trick,"
"You mean a trick of ours?" said Purdy.
"Sure, to make the Soviets think we could reach them with a guided missile. But I don't think that's the answer - I just listed it as a possibility."
DuBarry considered this thoughtfully.
"In the first place, you'd have to bring thousands of people into the scheme, so the disks would be reported often enough to get publicity. You'd have to have some kind of device, maybe something launched from high flying bombers, to give the rumors substance. They'd
"John's right," said Purdy. "Anyway, it's too ponderous. It would leak like a sieve, and the dumbest Soviet agent would see through it."
He looked back at my list. "Cross off Number One. There's too much competent testimony, beside the obvious fact that something's being covered up."
"That leaves Russian or American missiles," I said, "as Steele first suggested. But there are some points that just won't fit the missile theory."
"You've left out one answer," said Purdy.
"You're kidding!" I said.
"I didn't say I believed it," said Purdy. "I just say it's possible."
DuBarry was watching me. "I know how you feel. That's how it hit me when Ken first said it."
"I've heard it before," I said. "But I never took it seriously."
"Maybe this will interest you," Purdy said. He gave me a note from Sam Boal:
"Just talked with D__," the note ran. (D is a prominent aeronautical engineer, the designer of a world- famous plane.) "He believes the disks may be interplanetary and that the Air Force knows it - or at least suspects it. I'm enclosing sketches showing how he thinks the disks operate."
"He's not the first one who told us that," said Purdy. "We've heard the same thing from other engineers. Over a dozen airline pilots think they're coming from out in space. And there's a rocket expert at Wright Field who's warned Project 'Saucer' that the things are interplanetary. That's why I'm not writing it off."
"Have you read 'the Project 'Saucer' ideas on space travel?" DuBarry asked me. I told him my copy hadn't reached me. He read me some marked paragraphs in his copy of the preliminary report:
DuBarry handed me the report. "Here - I practically know it by heart. Take it with you. You can send it back later."
"I know the space-travel idea sounds silly at first," said Purdy, "but it's the only answer that explains all the sightings - especially those in the last century."
He asked DuBarry to give me their file of historic reports. While John was getting it, Purdy went on:
"Be careful about this man Steele. After what he said about 'moral responsibility' I'm sure he's planted."
I thought back to Steele's warning. I told Purdy: "If he had the space thing in mind, maybe he's right. It could set off a panic that would make that Orson Welles thing look like a picnic."
"Certainly it could," Purdy said. "We'd have to handle it carefully - if it turned out to be the truth. But I think the Air Force is making a mistake, if that's what they're hiding. It could break the wrong way and be serious."
John DuBarry came back with the file of old reports. "It might interest you to know," he said, "that the Air Force checked all these old sightings too."
The idea was still a difficult one for me to believe.
"Those space-travel suggestions might be a trick," I said. "The Air Force may be hinting at that to hide the guided-missile secret."
"Yes, but later on they deny the space thing," said Purdy. "It looks as if they're trying to put people on guard and then play it down so they won't get scared."
Hilton had heard of some unusual night sightings in New Mexico. The story had been hushed up, but he had learned some details from a pilot at Albuquerque.
One of these mysterious "flying lights" had been seen at Las Vegas, on December 8, 1948 - just one month before Mantell was killed in Kentucky. It was too dark to make out the shape behind the light, but all witnesses had agreed on its performance. The thing had climbed at tremendous speed, its upward motion shown by a bright green light. Though the green glow was much brighter than a plane's running light, all plane schedules were carefully checked.
"I think they were trying to pin it on a jet fighter," the Albuquerque pilot told Hilton. "But there weren't any jets near there. Anyway, the thing climbed too fast. It must have been making close to nine hundred miles an hour."
The Air Force had also checked balloon release times - apparently just for the record, since no balloon could even approach the saucer's terrific ascent. Again, they drew a blank.
"From the way this was hushed up," Hilton commented, "they seem to be worried about this group of sightings. I've heard two reports that the F.B.I. is tied into the deal somehow, but that's as far as I can get."
"See if you can get any lead on that," Purdy told me. "That F.B.I. business puzzles me. Where would they come in?"
I said I would try to find out. But it was almost four months before we learned the answer: The F.B.I. men had been witnesses. (This was later admitted in an obscure cross-reference. in the final Project "Saucer" report. But all official answers to the strange green light sightings had been carefully omitted. The cases concerned were 223, 224, 225, 226, 227, 230, and 231, which will be discussed later.)
I had a pretty good idea what the reaction would be, but I nodded. "O.K. I'll go flag a space ship and be on my way."
"O.K. - gag it up," said Purdy. "But don't sell it short. If by any chance it's true, it'll be the biggest story since the birth of Christ."
Chapter VIIIt was dark when the airliner limousine reached La Guardia Field. I had intended taking an earlier plane but DuBarry persuaded me to stay over for dinner.
We dropped into the Algonquin, next door to True's office building. Halfway through dinner, I asked John what he thought of the space-travel answer.
"Oh, it's possible," he said cautiously. "The time and space angles make it hard to take, but if we're planning to explore space within fifty years, there's no reason some other planet people couldn't do it. Of course, if they've been observing us for over a century, as those old sightings seem to indicate, they must be far ahead of us, at least in technical progress.
Later on, he said thoughtfully, "Even though it's possible, I hate to think it's the answer. Just imagine the impact on the world. We'd have to reorient our whole lives---and things are complicated enough already."
Standing at the gate, waiting for my plane to be called, I thought over that angle. Assuming that space travel was the solution-which I still couldn't believe-what would be the effect on the world?
It was a hard thing to picture. So much depended on the visitors from space. What would their purpose be? Would they be peaceful or hostile? Why had they been observing the earth so intensively in the past few years?
I could think of a hundred questions. What would the space people be like? Would they be similar to men and women on earth, or some fearsome Buck Rogerish creatures who would terrify the average American-including myself?
It was obvious they would be far superior to us in many ways. But their civilization might be entirely different. Evolution might have developed their minds, and possibly their bodies, along lines we couldn't even grasp. Perhaps we couldn't even communicate with them.
What would be the net effect of making contact with beings from a distant planet? Would earthlings be terrified,
The more I thought about it, the more fantastic the thing seemed.
And yet it hadn't been too long since airplane flight was considered an idiot's dream. This scene here at La Guardia would have seemed pure fantasy in 1900 - the huge Constellations and DC-6's; the double-decked Strato-cruisers, sweeping in from all over the country; the big ships at Pan-American, taking off for points all over the globe We'd come a long way in the forty-six years since the Wright brothers' first flight.
But space travel!
The gateman checked my ticket, and I went out to the Washington plane. It was a luxury ship, a fifty-two-passenger, four-engined DC-6, scheduled to be in the capital one hour after take-off. By morning this plane, the Aztec, would be in Mexico City.
The couple going up the gangway ahead of me were in their late sixties. Fifty years ago, what would they have said if someone had predicted this flight? The answer to that was easy; at that time, high-school songbooks featured a well-known piece entitled "Darius Green and His Flying Machine." Darius, it seems, was a simple-minded lad who actually thought he could fly.
Fifty years. That was the time the Air Force had estimated it would take us to start exploring space Would Americans come to accept space travel as matter-of-factly as the people now boarding this plane? The youngsters would, probably; the older ones, as a rule, would be a little more cautious.
In the oval lounge at the rear of the plane, I took out the file of old sighting reports. Glancing through it, I saw excerpts from nineteenth-century astronomical and scientific journals and extracts from official gazettes. Most of the early sightings had been in Great Britain and on the Continent, with a few reports scattered around the world. The American reports did not begin until the latter part of the century.
Any large city seen from the air at night has a certain magic, New York most of all. Looking down, I thought: What would a spaceman think, seeing this brilliantly lighted city, the towering skyscrapers? Would other planets have such cities, or would it be something new and puzzling to a visitor from space?
Turning back to the old reports, I skipped through until I found the American sightings. One of the first was an incident at Bonham, Texas, in the summer of 1873.
It was broad daylight when a strange, fast-moving object appeared in the sky, southwest of the town. For a moment, the people of Bonham stared at the thing, not believing their eyes. The only flying device then known was the drifting balloon. But this thing was tremendous and speeding so fast its outlines were almost a blur.
Terrified farmers dived under their wagons. Towns-people fled indoors. Only a few hardy souls remained in the streets. The mysterious object circled Bonham twice, then raced off to the east and vanished. Descriptions of the strange machine varied from round or oval to cigar-shaped. (The details of the Bonham sighting were later confirmed for me by Frank Edwards, Mutual network newscaster, who investigated this case.)
Twenty-four hours after the Bonham incident, a device of the same description appeared at Fort Scott, Kansas. Panic-stricken soldiers fled the parade ground as the thing flashed overhead. In a few seconds it disappeared, circling toward the north.
Until now, I had supposed that the term "saucer" was original with Kenneth Arnold. Actually, the first to compare a flying object with a saucer was John Martin, a farmer who lived near Denison, Texas. The Denison Daily News of January 25, 1878, gives the following account:
From Mr. John Martin, a farmer
who lives some six miles south of this city, we learn the following strange
story: Tuesday morning while out hunting, attention was directed to a dark
object high up in the southern sky. The peculiar shape and velocity with
which the object seemed to approach riveted his attention and he strained
his eyes to discover its character.
When first noticed, it appeared to be about the size of an orange, which continued to grow in size. After gazing at it for some time Mr. Martin became blind from long looking and left off viewing it for a time in order to rest his eyes. On resuming his view, the object was almost overhead and had increased considerably in size, and appeared to be going through space at wonderful speed.
When directly over him it was about the size of a large saucer and was evidently at great height. Mr. Martin thought it resembled, as well as he could judge, a balloon. It went as rapidly as it had come and was soon lost to sight in the heavenly skies. Mr. Martin is a gentleman of undoubted veracity and this strange occurrence, if it was not a balloon, deserves the attention of our scientists.
"I would take the very early reports with caution. For instance, the one on August 9, 1762, which describes an odd, spindle-shaped body traveling at high speed toward the sun. I recall that Charles Fort accepted this, along with other early sightings, as evidence of space ships. But this particular thing might have been a meteor - meteors as such were almost unknown then. The later reports are more convincing, and it is also easier to check the sources, especially those from 1870' on."
From 1762 to 1870, the reports were meager. Some described mysterious lights in the sky; a few mentioned round objects seen in daylight. Even though they were not so fully documented as later ones, one point struck me. In those days, there was no telegraph, telephone, or radio to spread news rapidly and start a flood of rumors.
Beginning in 1870, there was a series of reports that went on to the turn of the century. In the London Times, September 26, 1870, there was a description of a queer object that was seen crossing the moon. It was reported as elliptical, with some kind of tail, and it took almost thirty seconds to complete its passage of the moon. Then in 1871, a large, round body was sighted above Marseilles, France. This was on August 1. It moved slowly across the sky, apparently at great height, and was visible about fifteen minutes.
On March 22, 1880, several brilliantly luminous objects were reported seen at Kattenau, Germany. Sighted just before sunrise, they were described as rising from the horizon and moving from east to west. The account was published in the British Nature Magazine, Volume 22, page 64.
The next report in the file mentioned briefly a strange round object seen in the skies over Bermuda. The source for this account was the Bermuda Royal Gazette. This was in 1885. That same year, an astronomer and other witnesses reported a gigantic aerial object at Adrianople, Turkey. On November 1, the weird apparition was seen moving across the sky. Observers described it as round and four to five times the size of the moon.
This estimate is similar to the Denison, Texas, comparison with an orange. The object would actually be huge to be seen at any great height. But unless the true height were known, any estimate of size would be guesswork.
On March 19, 1887, two strange objects fell into the sea near a Dutch barkentine. As described by the skipper, Captain C. D. Sweet, one of the objects was dark, the other brightly luminous. The glowing object fell with a loud roaring sound; the shipmaster was positive it was not a meteor.
In New Zealand, a year later, an oval-shaped disk was reported speeding high overhead. This was on May 4, 1888. About two years after this, several large aerial bodies were sighted hovering over the Dutch East Indies.
On August 26, 1894, a British admiral reported sighting a large disk with a projection like a tail And a year after this, both England and Scotland buzzed with stories of triangular-shaped objects like those seen in the Dutch East Indies. Although many officials scoffed at the stories, more than one astronomer stuck to his belief that the mysterious things might be coming from outer space. Since planes and dirigibles were then unknown, there was no one on earth who could have been responsible for them.
In 1897 sightings in the United States began to be more frequent. One of the strangest reports describes an incident that began on April 9. Flying at a great height, a huge cigar-shaped device was seen in the Midwest. Short wings projected from the sides of the object, according to reports of astronomers who watched it through telescopes.
For almost a week, the aerial visitor was sighted around the Midwest, as far south as St. Louis and as far west as Colorado. Several times, red, green, and white lights were seen to flash in the sky; some witnesses thought the crew of this strange craft might be trying to signal the earth.
On April 15, the thing, whatever it was, disappeared from the Midwest. But on April 19, the same object - or else a similar one - appeared over West Virginia. Early that morning the town of Sisterville was awakened by blasts of the sawmill whistle. Those who went outside their homes saw a strange sight. From a torpedo-shaped object overhead, dazzling searchlights were pointing downward, sweeping the countryside; The thing appeared to be about two hundred feet long, some thirty feet in diameter, with stubby wings and red and green lights along the sides. For almost ten minutes the aerial visitor circled the town, then it swung eastward and vanished.
The next report was published in the U.S. Weather Bureau's monthly Weather Review. On page 115 in the
On July 2, 1907, a mysterious explosion occurred in the heavens near Burlington, Vermont. Some witnesses described a strange, torpedo-shaped device circling above. Shortly after it was seen, a round, luminous object flashed down from the sky, then exploded. (Weather Review, 1907, page 310.)
Another cigar-shaped craft was reported at a low altitude over Bridgewater, Massachusetts, in 1908. Like the one at Sisterville, it carried searchlights, which swept back and forth across the countryside. After a few moments, the visitor rose in a steep climb, and the searchlights blinked out.
There was no report for 1909 in America, though an odd aerial object was sighted near the Galapagos Islands. But in 1910, one January morning, a large silvery cigar- shaped device startled Chattanooga. After about five minutes, the thing sped away, appearing over Huntsville, Alabama, shortly afterward. It made a second appearance over Chattanooga the next day, then headed east and was never seen again.
In Popular Astronomy, January 27, 1912, a Dr. F. B. Harris described an intensely black object that he saw crossing the moon. As nearly as he could tell, it was gigantic in size - though again there was no way to be sure of distance from him or the moon. With careful understatement, Dr. Harris said, "I think a very interesting and curious phenomenon happened that night."
A strange shadow was noted on the clouds at Fort Worth, Texas, on April 8, 1913. It appeared to be caused by some large body hovering motionless above the clouds. As the cloud layer moved, the shadow remained in the same position. Then it changed size, diminishing, and quickly disappeared, as if it had risen vertically. A report on this was given in the Weather Bureau Review of that year, Number 4-599.
For some time after this, there were few authentic reports. Then in 1934, Nicholas Roerich, head of the American-Roerich expedition into Tibet, had a remarkable experience that bears on the saucer riddle.
On pages 361 and 362 of his book Altai Himalaya, Roerich describes the incident. The expedition party was in the wilds of Tibet one morning when a porter noticed the peculiar actions of a buzzard overhead. He called Roerich's attention to it; then they all saw something high in the sky, moving at great speed from north to south. Watching it through binoculars, Roerich saw it was oval shaped, obviously of huge size, and reflecting the sun's rays like brightly polished metal. While he trailed it with his glasses, the object suddenly changed direction, from south to southwest. It was gone in a few moments.
This was the last sighting listed before World War II. When I had finished, I stared out the plane window, curiously disturbed. Like most people, I had grown up believing the earth was the center of everything - life, intelligence, and religion. Now, for the first time in my life, that belief was shaken.
It was a curious thing. I could accept the idea that we would eventually explore space, land on the moon, and go on to distant planets. I had read of the plans, and I knew our engineers and scientists would somehow find a way. It did not disturb my belief in our superiority.
But faced with this evidence of a superior race in the universe, my mind rebelled. For years, I had been accustomed to thinking in comic-strip terms of any possible spacemen-Buck Rogers stuff, with weird-looking space ships and green-faced Martians.
But now, if these sightings were true, the shoe was on the other foot. We would be faced with a race of beings
My conjectures before the takeoff had just been idle thinking; I had not really believed this could be the answer. But now the question came back sharply. How would we react to a sudden appearance of space ships, bringing that higher race to the earth? If we were fully prepared, educated to this tremendous adventure, it might come off without trouble. Unprepared, we would thrown into panic.
The lights of Philadelphia showed up ahead, and a thought struck me. What would Philadelphians of 1776 have thought to see this DC-6 flying across their city at three hundred miles an hour? What would the sentries at Valley Forge have done, a year later, if this lighted airliner had streaked over their heads?
Madness. Stampede. Those were the plain answers.
But there was a difference now. We had had modern miracles, radio, television, supersonic planes and the promise of still more miracles. We could be educated, or least partly prepared, to accept space visitors - in fifty years we had learned to fly. In fifty years more, we would be exploring space. Why should we believe such creative intelligence was limited to the earth? It would be incredible if the earth, out of all the millions of planets, proved the only inhabited spot in the whole universe.
But, instinctively, I still fought against believing that the flying saucers were space ships. Eventually, we would make contact with races on other planets; they undoubtedly would someday visit the earth. But if it could be off . . . a problem for later generations to handle...
If the disks proved American guided missiles, it would be an easier answer.
Looking through the Project "Saucer" report Dubarry had loaned me, I read the space-travel items, hoping to find some hint that this was a smoke screen. On page 18, in a discussion on Mars, I found this comment:
Reports of strange objects seen in the skies have been handed down through the generations. However, scientists believe that if Martians were now visiting earth
There could be several answers to that. The Martians might not be able to live in our atmosphere, except in their sealed space ships. They, or some other planet race, could have observed us periodically to check on our slow progress. Until we began to approach their level of civilization, or in some way caused them concern, they would probably see no reason for trying to make contact. But somehow I found a vague comfort in the argument, full of holes though it was.
Searching further, I found other space-travel comments. On one page, the Air Force admitted it was almost a certainty that space travelers would be operating from planets outside the solar system. But on the following page, I discovered this sentence: "Thus, although visits from outer space are believed to be possible, they are thought to be highly improbable.''
What was the answer? Was this just a wandering discussion of possibilities, badly put together, or was it a hint of the truth? It could be the first step in preparing .America for a revelation. It could also be a carefully thought-out trick.
This whole report might be designed to conceal a secret weapon. If the Air Force or the Navy did have a secret missile, what better way to distract attention? The old sighting reports could have been seized on as a build up for space travel hints.
Then suddenly it hit me.
Even if it were a smoke screen, what of those old reports?
They still remained to be answered. There was only one possible explanation, unless you discarded the sightings as lies. That meant discrediting many reliable witnesses - naval officers, merchant shipmasters, explorers, astronomers, ministers, and responsible public officials.
The answer seemed inevitable, but I held it off. I didn't want to believe it, with all the changes it might bring, the unpredictable effect upon our civilization.
If I kept on checking I might find evidence that would bring a different explanation for the present saucers.
Dubarry had put another group of reports in the envelope; this series covered the World War II phase and on up to the outbreak of the saucer scare in the United States. Some of it, about the foo fighters, I already knew. This was tied in with the mystery rockets reported over Sweden. The first Swedish sightings had occurred during the early part of the war. Most of the so-called "ghost rockets" were seen at night, moving at tremendous speed. Since they came from the direction of Germany, most Swedes believed that guided rockets were the answer.
During the summer of 1946, after the Russians had taken over Peenemunde, the Nazi missile test base, ghost rockets again were reported flying over Sweden. Some were said to double back and fly into Soviet areas. Practically all were seen at night, and therefore none had been described as a flying disk. Instead, they were said to he colored lights, red, green, blue, and orange, often blurred from their high speed.
But there was a puzzling complication. Mystery lights, and sometimes flying disks, were simultaneously reported over Greece, Portugal, Turkey, Spain, and even French Morocco. Either there were two answers, or some nation had developed missiles with an incredibly long range.
By January 1947, ghost-rocket sightings in Europe had diminished to less than one a month. Oddly enough, the report admitted by Project "Saucer" was in this sane month. The first '47 case detailed by Project "Saucer" occurred at Richmond, Virginia. It was about the middle of April. A Richmond weather observer had seen a balloon and was tracking it with a theodolite when a strange object crossed his field of vision. He swung the theodolite and managed to track the thing, despite its high speed. (The actual speed and altitude-the latter determined by a comparison of the balloon's height at
About the seventeenth of May 1947, a huge oval-shaped saucer ten times longer than its diameter was sighted by Byron Savage, an Oklahoma City pilot. Two days later, another fast-flying saucer was reported at Manitou Springs, Colorado. In the short time it was observed, it was seen to change direction twice, maneuvering at an unbelievable speed.
Then on June 24 came Kenneth Arnold's famous report, which set off the saucer scare. The rest of the story I now knew almost by heart.
When the DC-6 landed at Washington, I had made one decision. Since it was impossible to check up on most of the old sightings, I would concentrate on certain recent reports-cases in which the objects had been described as space ships.
As I waited for a taxi, I looked up at the sky. It was a clear summer night, without a single cloud. Beyond the low hill to the west I could see the stars.
I can still remember thinking; If it's true, then the stars will never again seem the same.