Chapter XVIIFor a moment after Boggs's last answer, I had an impulse to end the interview. I had a feeling I was facing a sphinx--a quiet, courteous sphinx in an Air Force uniform.
I was sure now why Major Jerry Boggs had been chosen for his job, the all-important connecting link with the project at Wright Field. No one would ever catch this man off guard, no matter what secret was given him to conceal. And it was more than the result of Air Force Intelligence training. His manner, his voice carried conviction. He would have convinced anyone who had not carefully analyzed the Godman Field tragedy.
I made one more attempt. "Do the Godman Field witnesses--Colonel Hix and the rest--believe the Venus answer?"
"I haven't asked them," said Boggs, "so I couldn't say."
"What about the Chiles-Whitted case?" I asked. "You were quoted as saying they saw a meteor--a bolide that exploded in a shower of sparks."
"That's right," said Boggs.
"And Gorman was chasing a lighted balloon?"
Again the Intelligence major nodded. I pointed, out that all three of the cases mentioned had been listed as unidentified in the April report.
"They'd had those cases for months," I said. "What new facts did they learn?"
Boggs said calmly, "They just made a final analysis, and those were the answers."
We looked at each other a moment. Major Boggs patiently waited. I began to realize how a lawyer must feel with an imperturbable witness. And Boggs's unfailing courtesy began to make me embarrassed.
"Major," I said, "I hope you'll realize this is not a personal matter. As an Intelligence officer, if you're told to give certain answers--"
He smiled for the first time. "That's all right--but I'm
"We've been told," I said, "that Project 'Saucer' isn't closed--that you just changed its code name."
"That's not so," Boggs said emphatically. "The contracts are ended, and all personnel transferred to other duty."
"Then the announcement wasn't caused by True's article?"
Both General Smith and Major Jesse Stay shook their heads quickly. Boggs leaned forward, eyeing me earnestly.
"As a matter of fact, we'd finished the investigation months ago--around the end of August, or early in September. We just hadn't got around to announcing it."
"Last October," I said, "I was told the investigation was still going on. They said there were no new answers to the cases just mentioned."
"The Press Branch hadn't been informed yet," Boggs explained simply.
"It seems very strange to me," I said. "In April, the Air Force called for vigilance by the civilian population. It said the project was young, much of its work still under way."
Jesse Stay interrupted before Boggs could reply.
"Don, the Press Branch will have to take the blame for that. The report wasn't carefully checked. There were several loose statements in it."
This was an incredible statement. I was sure Jesse knew it.
"But the case reports you quoted came from Wright Field. As of April twenty-seventh, 1949, all the major cases were officially unsolved. Then in August or early September, the whole things cleaned up, from what Major Boggs says. That's pretty hard to believe."
No one answered that one. Major Boggs was waiting politely for the next question. I picked up my list. The rest of the interview was in straight question-and-answer style:
Q. Do you know about the White Sands sightings in April 1948? The ones Commander R. B. McLaughlin has written up?
Q. One of the witnesses was Charles B. Moore, the director of the Navy cosmic-ray project at Minneapolis; He's considered a very reputable engineer. Did you know he confirms the first report--the one about the saucer 56 miles up, at a speed of eighteen thousand miles per hour?
A. Yes, I knew about him. We think he was mistaken, like the others.
Q. Mr. Moore says it was absolutely sure it was not hallucination. He says it should be carefully investigated.
A. We did investigate. We just don't believe they saw anything.
Q. Could I see the complete file on that case? Also on Mantell, Gorman, and the Eastern Airlines cases?
A. That's out of my province.
Q. If Project "Saucer" is ended then all the files should be opened.
A. Well, the summaries have been cleared, and you can see them.
Q. No, I mean the actual files. Is there any reason I shouldn't see them?
A. There'd be a lot of material to search through. Each case has a separate book, and some of them are pretty bulky.
Q. There were 722 cases in all, weren't there?
A. No, nowhere near that.
Q. Then 375 is the total figure--I mean the number of cases Project "Saucer" listed?
A. There were a few more--something over four hundred. I don't know the exact figure.
Q. I've been told that Project "Saucer" had the Air Force put out a special order for pilots to chase flying saucers. Is that right?
A. Yes, that's right.
Q. Did that include National Guard pilots?
A. Yes, it did. When the project first started checking on saucers we were naturally anxious to get hold of one of the things. We told the pilots to do practically anything in reason, even if they had to grab one by the tail.
Q. Were any of those planes armed?
Q. We've heard of one case where fighters chased a saucer to a high altitude. One of them emptied his guns at it.
A. You must mean that New Jersey affair. The plane was armed for another reason.
Q. No, I meant a case reported out at Luke Field. Three fighters took off, if the story sent us is correct. Apparently it made quite a commotion. That was back in 1945.
A. It might have happened. I don't know.
Q. What was this New Jersey case?
A. I'd rather not discuss any more cases without having the books here.
Q. Has Project "Saucer" released its secret pictures?
A. What pictures? There weren't any that amounted to anything. Maybe half a dozen. They didn't show anything, just spots on film or weather balloons at a distance.
Q. In the Kenneth Arnold case, didn't some forest rangers verify his report?
A. Well, there were some people who claimed they saw the same disks. But we found out later they'd heard about it on the radio.
Q. Didn't they draw some sketches that matched Arnold's?
A. I never heard about it.
Q. I'd like to go back to the Mantell case a second. If Venus was so bright--remember Mantell thought it was a huge metallic object--why didn't the pilot who made the search later on--
A. Well, it was Venus, that's positive. But I can't remember all the details without the case books.
Q. One more question, Major. Have any reports been received at Wright Field since Project "Saucer" closed? There was a case after that date, an airliner crew--
At this point, Major Jesse Stay broke in.
"It's all up to the local commanders now. If they want to receive reports of anything unusual, all right. And if they want to investigate them, that's up to each
There at the last, it had been a little like a courtroom scene, and I was glad the interview was over. Major Boggs was unruffled as ever. I apologized for the barrage of questions, and thanked him for being so decent about it.
"It was interesting, getting your viewpoint," he said. He smiled, still the courteous sphinx, and went on out.
After Boggs had left, I talked with General Smith alone. I told him I was not convinced,
"I'd like to see the complete files on these cases I mentioned," I explained. "Also, I'd like to talk with the last commanding officer or senior Intelligence officer attached to Project 'Saucer.'"
"I'm not sure about the senior officer," General Smith answered. "He may have been detached already. But I don't see any reason why you can't see those files. I'll phone Wright Field and call you."
I was about to leave, but he motioned for me to sit down.
"I can understand how you feel about the Mantell report," General Smith said earnestly. "I knew Tommy Mantell very well. And Colonel Hix is a classmate of mine. I knew neither one was the kind to have hallucinations. That case got me, at first."
"You believe Venus is the true answer?" I asked him.
He seemed surprised. "It must be, if Wright Field says so."
When I went back to the Press Branch, I asked Jack Shea for the case-report summaries that Boggs had mentioned, He got them for me--two collections of loose-leaf mimeographed sheets enclosed in black binders. So these were the "secret files"!
Across the hall, in the press room, I opened one book at random. The first thing I saw was this:
"A meteorologist should compute the approximate energy required to evaporate as much cloud as shown in the incident 26 photographs."
I tucked the binders under my arm and went out to my car. Perhaps these books hinted at more than Boggs had realized. But that didn't seem likely. As liaison man, he should know all the answers. I was almost positive that he did.
But I was equally sure they weren't the answers he had given me.
Chapter XVIIIThat night I went through the Project "Saucer" summary of cases. It was a strange experience.
The first report I checked was the Mantell case. Nothing that Boggs had said had changed my firm opinion. I knew the answer was not Venus, and I was certain Boggs knew it, too.
The Godman Field incident was listed as Case 33. The report also touches on the Lockbourne Air Base sighting. As already described, the same mysterious object, or a similar one, was seen moving at five hundred miles an hour over Lockbourne Field. It was also sighted at other points in Ohio.
The very first sentence in Case 33 showed a determined attempt to explain away the object that Mantell chased:
"Detailed attention should be given to any possible astronomical body or phenomenon which might serve to identify the object or objects."
(Some of the final Project report on Mantell has been given in an earlier chapter. I am repeating a few paragraphs below to help in weighing Major Boggs's answer.)
These are official statements of the Project astronomer:
"On January 7, 1948, Venus was less than half its full brilliance. However, under exceptionally good atmospheric conditions, and with the eye shielded from the direct rays of the sun, Venus might be seen as an exceedingly tiny bright point of light. It is possible to see it in daytime when one knows exactly where to look. Of course, the chances of looking at the right spot are very few.
"It has been unofficially reported that the object was a Navy cosmic ray balloon. If this can be established it is to be preferred as an explanation. However, if reports from 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."
The next paragraph of this Project "Saucer" report practically nullified Major Boggs's statement that Venus was the sole explanation:
"It is most unlikely, however, that so many separate 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 (in the fatal chase) and balloons. . . . Such a hypothesis, however, does still necessitate the inclusion of at least two other objects than Venus, and it certainly is coincidental that so many people would have chosen this one day to be confused (to the extent of reporting the matter) by normal airborne objects. . . ."
Farther on in the summaries, I found a report that has an extremely significant bearing on the Mantell case. This was Case 175, in which the same consultant attempts to explain a strange daylight sighting at Santa Fe, New Mexico.
One of the Santa Fe observers described the mysterious aerial object as round and extremely bright, "like a dime in the sky." Here is what the Project "Saucer" investigator had to say:
"The magnitude of Venus was -3.8 (approximately the same as on January 7, 1948). It could have been visible in the daylight sky. It would have appeared, however, more like a pinpoint of brilliant light than 'like a dime in the sky.' It seems unlikely that it would be noticed at all. . . . Considering discrepancies in the two reports, I suggest the moon in a gibbous phase; in daytime this is unusual and most people are not used to it, so that they fail to identify it. While this hypothesis
"It seems far more probable that some type of balloon was the object in this case."
Both the Godman Field and the Santa Fe cases were almost identical, so far as the visibility of Venus was concerned. In the Santa Fe case, which had very little publicity, Project "Saucer" dropped the Venus explanation as a practically impossible answer. But in Case 33, it had tried desperately to make Venus loom up as a huge gleaming object during Mantell's fatal chase.
There was only one explanation: Project "Saucer" must have known the truth from the start-that Mantell had pursued a tremendous space ship. That fact alone, if it had exploded in the headlines at that time, might have caused dangerous panic. To make it worse, Captain Mantell had been killed. Even if he had actually died from blacking out while trying to follow the swiftly ascending space ship, few would have believed it. The story would spread like wildfire: Spacemen kill an American Air Force Pilot!
This explained the tight lid that had been clamped down at once on the Mantell case. It was more than a year before that policy had been changed; then the first official discussions of possible space visitors had begun to appear.
True's plans to announce the interplanetary answer would have fitted a program of preparing the people. But the Air Force had not expected such nation-wide reaction from True's article; that much I knew. Evidently, they had not suspected such a detailed analysis of the Godman Field case, in particular. I could see now why Boggs, Jesse Stay, and the others had tried so hard to convince me that we had made a mistake.
It was quite possible that we had revived that first Air Force fear of dangerous publicity. But Mantell had been dead for two years. News stories would not have the same impact now, even if they did report that spacemen had downed the pilot. And I doubted that there would be headlines. Unless the Air Force supplied some
Apparently I had been right; this case was the key to the riddle. It had been the first major sighting in 1948. Project "Saucer" had been started immediately afterward. In searching for a plausible answer, which could be published if needed, officials had probably set the pattern for handling all other reports, "Explaining away" would be a logical program, until the public could be prepared for an official announcement.
As I went through other case reports, I found increasing evidence to back up this belief.
Case 1, the Muroc Air Base sightings, had plainly baffled Project men seeking a plausible answer. Because of the Air Force witnesses, they could not ignore the reports. Highly trained Air Force test pilots and ground officers had seen two fast-moving silver-colored disks circling over the base.
Flying at speeds of from three to four hundred miles an hour, the disks whirled in amazingly tight maneuvers. Since they were only eight thousand feet above the field, these turns could be clearly seen.
"It is tempting to explain the object as ordinary aircraft observed under unusual light conditions," the case report reads. "But the evidence of tight circles, if maintained, is strongly contradictory."
Although Case 1 was technically in the "unexplained" group, Wright Field had made a final effort to explain away the reports. Said the Air Materiel Command:
"The sightings were the result of misinterpretation of real stimuli, probably research balloons."
In all the world's history, there is no record of a three-hundred-mile-an-hour wind. To cover the distance involved, the drifting balloons would have had to move at this speed, or faster. If a three-hundred-mile wind had been blowing at eight thousand feet, nothing on earth could have stood it. Muroc Air Base would have been blown off the map.
What did the Muroc test pilots really see that day?
While searching for the Chiles-Whitted report, ran across the Fairfield Suisan mystery-light case, which I
"If the observations were exactly as stated by the witnesses, the ball of light could not be a fireball. . . . A fireball would not have come into view at 1,000 feet and risen to 20,000. If correct, there is no astronomical explanation. Under unusual conditions, a fireball might appear to rise somewhat as a result of perspective. The absence of trail and sound definitely does not favor the meteor hypothesis, but . . . does not rule it out finally. It does not seem likely any meteor or auroral phenomenon could be as bright as this."
Then came one of the most revealing lines in all the case reports:
"In the almost hopeless absence of any other natural explanation, one must consider the possibility of the object's having been a meteor, even though the description does not fit very well."
One air-base officer, I recalled, had insisted that the object had been a lighted balloon. Checking the secret report from the Air Weather Service, I found this:
"Case 215. Very high winds, 60-70 miles per hour from southwest, all levels. Definitely prohibits any balloon from southerly motion."
This case is officially listed as answered.
In Case 19, where a cigar-shaped object was seen at Dayton, Ohio, the Project investigator made a valiant attempt to fit an answer:
"Possibly a close pair of fireballs, but it seems unlikely. If one were to stretch the description to its very limits and make allowances for untrained observers, he could say that the cigar-like shape might have been illusion caused by rapid motion, and that the bright sunlight might have made both the objects and the trails nearly invisible.
"This investigator does not prefer that interpolation, and it should he resorted to only if all other possible explanations fail."
This case, too, is officially listed as answered.
Case 24, which occurred June 12, 1947, twelve days before the Arnold sighting, shows the same determined
In this case, two fast-moving objects were seen at Weiser, Idaho, Twice they approached the earth, then swiftly circled upward. The Project investigator tried hard to prove that these might have been parts of a double fireball. But at the end, he said, "In spite of all this, this investigator would prefer a terrestrial explanation for the incident."
It was plain that this report had not been planned originally for release to the public. No Project investigator would have been so frank. With each new report, I was more and more convinced that these had been confidential discussions of various possible answers, circulated between Project "Saucer" officials. Why they had been released now was still a puzzle, though I began to see a glimmer of the answer.
The Chiles-Whitted sighting was listed as Case 144. As I started on the report, I wondered if Major Boggs's "bolide" answer would have any more foundation than these other "astronomical" cases.
The report began with these words:
"There is no astronomical explanation, if we accept the report at face value. But the sheer improbability of the facts as stated, particularly in the absence of any known aircraft in the vicinity, makes it necessary to see whether any other explanation, even though farfetched, can be considered."
After this candid admission of his intentions, the Project consultant earnestly attempts to fit the two pilots' space ship description to a slow-moving meteor.
"It will have to be left to the psychologists," he goes on, "to tell us whether the immediate trail of a bright meteor could produce the subjective impression of a ship with lighted windows. Considering only the Chiles-Whitted sighting, the hypothesis seems very improbable."
As I mentioned in an earlier chapter, observers at Robbins Air Force Base, Macon, Georgia, saw the same mysterious object streak overhead, trailing varicolored
To bolster up the meteor theory, the Project consultant suggests a one-hour error in time. The explanation: The airliner would be on daylight-saving time.
"If there is no time difference," he proceeds, "the object must have been an extraordinary meteor. . . . In which case it would have covered the distance from Macon to Montgomery in a minute or two."
Having checked the time angle before, I knew this was incorrect. Both reports were given in eastern standard time. And in a later part of the Project report, the consultant admits this fact. But he has an alternate answer: "If the difference in time is real, the object was some form of known aircraft, regardless of its bizarre nature."
The "bizarre nature" is not specified. Nor does the Project "Saucer" report try to fit the Robbins Field description to any earth-made aircraft. The air-base observers were struck by the object's huge size, its projectile-like shape, and the weird flames trailing behind. Except for the double-deck windows, the air-base men's description tallied with the pilots'. With the ship at five thousand feet or higher, its windows would not have been visible from the ground. All the observers agreed on the object's very high speed.
Neither of the Project "Saucer" alternate answers will fit the facts.
1. The one-hour interval has been proved correct. Therefore, as the Project consultant admits, it could not be a meteor.
2. The Robbins Field witnesses have flatly denied it was a conventional plane. The Air Force screened 225 airplane schedules, and proved there was no such plane in the area. No ordinary aircraft would have caused the brilliant streak that startled the DC-3 passenger and both of the pilots.
Major Boggs's bolide answer had gone the way of his Venus explanation. I wondered if the Gorman light-balloon solution would fade out the same way.
But the Project report on Gorman (Case 172) merely
In all the reports I have mentioned, and on through both the case books, one thing was immediately obvious. All the testimony, all the actual evidence was missing. These were only the declared conclusions of Project "Saucer." Whether they matched the actual conclusions in Wright Field secret files there was no way of knowing.
But even in these sketch reports, I found some odd hints, clues to what Project officials might really be thinking.
After an analysis of two Indianapolis cases, one investigator reports:
"Barring hallucination, these two incidents and 17, 75 and 84 seem the most tangible from the standpoint of description, of all those reported, and the most difficult to explain away as sheer nonsense."
Case 17, I found, was that of Kenneth Arnold. But in spite of the above admission that this case cannot be explained away, it is officially listed as answered.
Case 75 struck a familiar note. This was the strange occurrence at Twin Falls, Idaho, on which True had had a tip months before. A disk moving through a canyon at tremendous speed had whipped the treetops as if by a violent hurricane. The report was brief, but one sentence stood out with a startling effect:
"Twin Falls, Idaho, August 13, 1947," the report began. "There is clearly nothing astronomical in this incident. . . . Two points stand out, the sky-blue color, and the fact that the trees 'spun around on top as if they were in a vacuum.'"
Then came the sentence that made me sit up in my chair.
"Apparently it must be classed with the other bona fide disk sightings."
The other bona fide sightings!
Was this a slip? Or had the Air Force deliberately left this report in the file? If they had, what was back of it
I skimmed through the rest as quickly as possible looking for other clues. Here are a few of the things that. caught my eye:
Case 10. United Airlines report . . . despite conjectures, no logical explanation seems possible. . . .
Case 122. Holloman Air Force Base, April 6, 1948. [This was the Commander McLaughlin White Sands report.] No logical explanation. . . .
Case 124. North Atlantic, April 18, 1948 . . . radar sighting . . . no astronomical explanation. . . .
Case 127. Yugoslav-Greek frontier, May 7, 1948 . . . information too limited. . . .
Case 168. Arnheim, The Hague, July 20, 1948 . . . object seen four times . . . had two decks and no wings . . . very high speed comparable to a V-2. . . .
Case 183. Japan, October 15, 1948. Radar experts should determine acceleration rates. . .
Case 188. Goose Bay, Labrador, October 29, 1948. Not astronomical . . . picked up by radar . . . radar experts should evaluate the sightings . . . .
Case 189. Goose Bay, Labrador, October 31, 1948 . . . not astronomical . . . observed on radarscope. . . .
Case 196. Radarscope observation . . . objects traveling directly into the wind. . . .
Case 198. Radar blimp moving at high speed and continuously changing direction. . . .
Case 222. Furstenfeldbruck, Germany, November 23, 1948 . . . object plotted by radar DF at 27,000 feet . . . short time later circling at 40,000 feet . . . speed estimated 200-500 m.p.h. . . .
Case 223 . . . seventeen individuals saw and reported object . . . green flare . . . all commercial and government airfield questioned . . . no success. . . .
Case 224. Las Vegas, New Mexico, December 8, 1948 . . . description exactly as in 223 . . . flare
Case 231 . . . another glowing green flare just as described above. . . .
Case 233 . . . definitely no balloon . . . made turns . . . accelerated from 200 to 500 miles per hour . . . .
Going back over this group of cases, I made an incredible discovery: All but three of these unsolved cases were officially listed as answered.
The three were the United Airlines case, the White Sands sightings, and the double-decked space-ship report from The Hague.
Going back to the first report, I checked all the summaries. Nine times out of ten, the explanations were pure conjecture. Sometimes no answer was even attempted.
Although 375 cases were mentioned, the summaries ended with Case 244. Several cases were omitted. I found clues to some of these in the secret Air Weather Service report, including the mysterious "green light" sightings at Las Vegas and Albuquerque.
Of the remaining 228 cases, Project "Saucer" lists all but 34 as explained. These unsolved cases are brought up again for a final attempt at explaining them away. In the appendix, the Air Materiel Command carefully states:
"It is not the intent to discredit the character of observers, but each case has undesirable elements and these can't be disregarded."
After this perfunctory gesture, the A.M.C. proceeds to discredit completely the testimony of highly trained Air Force test pilots and officers at Muroc. (The 300-400 m.p.h. research balloon explanation.)
The A.M.C. then brushes off the report of Captain Emil Smith and the crew of a United Airline plane. On July 4, 1947, nine huge flying disks were counted by Captain Smith and his crew. The strange objects were in sight for about twelve minutes; the crew watched them for the entire period and described them in detail later.
Despite Project "Saucer's" admission that it had no
"Since the sighting occurred at sunset, when illusory effects are most likely, the objects could have been ordinary aircraft, balloons, birds, or pure illusion."
In only three cases did the A.M.C. admit it had no answer. Even here, it was implied that the witnesses were either confused or incompetent.
In its press release of December 27, 1949, the Air Force had mentioned 375 cases. It implied that all of these were answered. The truth was just the reverse, as was proved by these case books. Almost two hundred cases still were shown to be unsolved-although the real answers might be hidden in Wright Field files.
These two black books puzzled me. Why had the Air Force lifted its secrecy on these case summaries? Why had Major Boggs given me those answers, when these books would flatly refute them?
I thought I knew the reason now but there was only one way to make sure. The actual Wright Field files should tell the answer.
When I phoned General Sory Smith, his voice sounded a little peculiar. "I called Wright Field," he said. "But they said you wouldn't find anything of value out there."
"You mean they refused to let me see their files?"
"No, I didn't say that. But they're short of personnel. They don't want to take people off other jobs to look up the records."
"I won't need any help," I said. "Major Boggs said each case had a separate book. If they'd just show me the shelves, I could do the job in two days."
There was a long silence.
"I'll ask them again," the General said finally. "Call me sometime next week."
I said I would, and hung up. The message from Wright Field hadn't surprised me. But Smith's changed manner did. He had sounded oddly disturbed.
While I was waiting for Wright Field's answer, Ken Purdy phoned. He told me that staff men from Time and Life magazines were seriously checking on the "little men" story. Both Purdy and I were sure this was a
They key man in the story seemed to be one George Koehler, of Denver, Colorado. The morning after Purdy called, I took a plane to Denver. During the flight I went over the "little men" story again. It had been printed in over a hundred papers.
According to the usual version, George Koehler had accidentally learned of two crashed saucers at a radar station on our southwest border. The ships were made of some strange metal. The cabin was stationary, placed within a large rotating ring.
Here is the story as it was told in the Kansas City Star:
In flight, the ring revolved at a high rate of speed, while the cabin remained stationary like the center of a gyroscope.
Each of the two ships seen by Koehler were occupied by a crew of two. In the badly damaged ship, these bodies were charred so badly that little could be learned from them. The occupants of the other ship, while dead when they were found, were not burned or disfigured, and, when Koehler saw them, were in a perfect state of preservation. Medical reports, according to Koehler, showed that these men were almost identical with earth-dwelling humans, except for a few minor differences. They were of a uniform height of three feet, were uniformly blond, beardless, and their teeth were completely free of fillings or cavities. They did not wear undergarments, but had their bodies taped.
The ships seemed to be magnetically controlled and powered.
In addition to a piece of metal, Koehler had a clock or automatic calendar taken from one of the crafts.
Koehler said that the best assumption as to the source of the ships was the planet Venus.
When I arrived at Denver, I went to the radio station
As the first substantial proof, I asked to see the piece of strange metal he was supposed to have. Koehler said it had been sent to another city to be analyzed. I asked to see pictures of the crashed saucers. These, too, proved to be somewhere else. So did the queer "space clock" that Koehler was said to have.
By this time I was sure it was all a gag. I had the feeling that Koehler, back of his manner of seeming indignation at my demands, was hugely enjoying himself. I cut the interview short and called Ken Purdy in New York.
"Well, thank God that's laid to rest," he said when I told him.
But even though the "little men" story had turned out-as expected--a dud, Koehler had done me a good turn. An old friend, William E. Barrett, well-known fiction writer, now lived in Denver. Thanks to Koehler's gag, I had a pleasant visit with Bill and his family.
On the trip back, I bought a paper at the Chicago airport. On an inside page I ran across Koehler's name. According to the A.P., he had just admitted the whole thing was a big joke.
But in spite of this, the "little men" story goes on and on. Apparently not even Koehler can stop it now.
Chapter XIXFor two weeks after my return to Washington, General Sory Smith held off a final answer about my trip to Wright Field. Meantime, Ken Purdy had called him backing my request to see the Project files.
It was obvious to me that Wright Field was determined not to open the files. But the General was trying to avoid making it official.
"Why can't you accept my word there's nothing to the saucers?" he asked me one day. "You're impeaching my personal veracity."
But finally he saw there was no other way out. He told me I had been officially refused permission to see the Wright Field files. Some time later, Ken Purdy phoned General Smith.
"General, if the Air Force wants to talk to us off the record, we'll play ball. True will either handle it from then on whatever way you think best or we'll keep still."
Whether this offer was relayed higher up, I don't know. But nothing came of it.
Meantime, saucer reports had begun to come in from all over the country. Some even came from abroad. Some of these 1950 sightings have already been mentioned in early chapters. Besides the strange affair at Tucson on February 1, there were several other cases in February. Three of these were in South America. One saucer was reported near the naval air station at Alameda, California. Some were sighted in Texas, New Mexico, and other parts of the Southwest.
In March, the wave of sightings reached such a height that the Air Force again denied the saucers' existence. This followed a report that a flying disk had crashed near Mexico City and that the wreckage had been viewed by U. S. Air Force officials.
Scores of Orangeburg, South Carolina, residents watched a disk that hovered over that city on March 10. It was described as silver-bright, turning slowly in the air before it disappeared. The day before this, residents
Disks were reported at numerous places in Mexico, including Guadalajara, Juárez, Mazatlán, and Durango. On the twelfth of March, the crew and passengers of an American Airlines ship saw a large gleaming disk high above Monterrey airport in Mexico.
Captain W. R. Hunt, the senior airline pilot, watched the disk through a theodolite at the airport. This disk and most of the others seen in Mexico were similar in description to the one sighted at Dayton, Ohio, on March 8. This was the large metallic saucer that hovered high over Vandalia Airport, until Air Force and National Guard fighters raced up after it. The disk rose vertically into the sky at incredible speed, hovered a while longer, and then vanished.
Within twenty-four hours this mystery disk had been "identified" as the planet Venus. (It was broad daylight.) Newspapers quoted "trained astronomical officials in Dayton" as the source for this explanation.
Meanwhile the Mexican government newspaper, El Nacional, quoted "a famous and reputable astronomer" as saying the numerous disks reported over Mexico "carry visitors from Mars."
One of the strangest reports came from the naval air station at Dallas, Texas. It was about 11:30 A.M. on March 16 when CPO Charles Lewis saw a disk streak up at a B-36 bomber. The disk appeared about twenty to twenty-five feet in diameter, Lewis reported. Racing at incredible speed, it shot up under the bomber, hung there for a second, then broke away at a 45-degree angle. Following this, it shot straight up into the air and disappeared.
Captain M. A. Nation, C. O. of the station, said it was "the second report in ten days. On March 7, said Captain Nation, a tower control operator named C. E. Edmundson saw a similar disk flying so fast it was almost a blur.
"He estimated its speed at three thousand to four thousand miles per hour," Captain Nation stated. "Of
It was some time before this when I heard the first crazy rumor about the guided-missile display. This story, which had new details every time I heard it described the Air Force as refusing to let the Navy announce a new type of missile. According to the rumors, the Air Force was trying to prove its own missile far superior, to keep the Navy from invading its long-range bombing domain. Then the Army joined the pitched battle with still a third guided missile, according to the rumors.
And the flying disks? Army, Navy, and Air Force missiles, launched in droves all over the country to prove whose was the best? A public missile race, with the joint Chiefs of Staff to decide the winner!
It seems fantastic that this theory would be believed by any intelligent person. In effect, it accuses the armed services of deliberate, criminal negligence, of endangering millions in the cities below.
I am convinced that some of these rumors led to at least one of the published guesses about our missile program. One widely publicized story stated that the flying saucers seen hurtling through our skies are actually two types of secret weapons. One, according to radio and newspaper accounts, is a disk that whizzes through space, halts suspended in the air, soars to thirty thousand feet, drops to one thousand feet, and then usually disintegrates in the air.
These saucers, it was said, ranged from 20 inches to 250 feet in diameter. They were supposed to be pilotless--and harmless.
The second type was said to be a jet version of the Navy's circular airfoil "Flying Flapjack." It was credited with fantastic speed.
The "true disks," however, were mainly Air Force devices, according to the report.
"Some are guided, others are not," said the radio commentator who released this story. "They can stay stationary, dash off to right or left, and move like lightning. But they are utterly harmless."
In these "harmless" disks there was supposed to be an
Within a few days after this story was broadcast, the United States News and World Report declared that the saucers are real, and identified them as jet models of Navy "Flying Flapjacks." This magazine, which is not an official publication despite its name, mentioned the variable-direction jet principle that I had previously described in the True article.
These two flying-saucer "explanations" brought denials from the White House, the Navy, and the Air Force.
The Air Force flatly declared that:
1. None of the armed forces is conducting secret experiments with disk-shaped flying objects that could be a basis for the reported phenomena.
2. There is no evidence that the latter stem from the activities of any foreign nation.
Before this, President Truman stated he knew nothing of any such objects being developed by the United States or any other nation.
The Navy denial came immediately after the first broadcast story. It ran:
"The Navy is not engaged in research or in flying any jet-powered, circular-shaped aircraft."
The Navy added that one model of a pancake-shaped aircraft, called the Zimmerman Skimmer, was built but was never flown. However, a small, three-thousand-pound scale model did fly and was under radio control during flight. This last device is now being rumored as the Navy's unpiloted "missile," said to have been launched over the country like the so-called "harmless" disks.
Even though all these accounts have been officially denied, many Americans may still believe they are true. I have no desire to criticize the authors of these stories; I believe that in following up certain guided-missile leads they were misled into accepting the conclusions they gave.
But these stories, particularly the accounts of huge unpiloted disks, may have planted certain fears in the public mind-fears that are completely unwarranted. For
1. Neither the Army, Navy, nor Air Force has at any time staged any guided-missile competition as rumored.
2. No unpiloted missiles or remote-controlled experimental craft have been tested over American cities or heavily populated areas.
3. No unpiloted missile carrying dangerous explosives, whether for destruction of the device or other purposes, has been deliberately launched or tested over heavily populated areas.
In regard to the so-called jet-propelled "Flying Flapjack," I have been assured by Admiral Calvin Bolster, of the Navy Bureau of Aeronautics, that this type of plane has never been produced. I concede that he might make this statement to conceal a secret development, but there is one fact of which every American can be certain: Neither this type, nor the radio-controlled smaller model, has been or will be flown or launched over areas where people would be endangered.
The three armed services are working on guided missiles. They are not risking American lives by launching such missiles at random across the United States,
Although most of our guided-missile projects are secret, it is possible to give certain facts about guided-missile developments in general.
The first successful long-range missiles were produced by the Germans. These were the buzz-bomb and. the V-2 rocket. But research in various other types was carried on during the war. Some of this was with oval and round types of airfoils. As already stated by Paul Redell, there is strong evidence that the disk-shaped foil resulted from German observations of either space ships or remote-control disk-shaped "observer units." All the Nazi space-exploration plans followed this discovery that we were being observed by a race from another planet.
After the end of World War II, the international guided-missile race began, with the British, Russians, and ourselves as the chief contenders. Numerous types have been developed-winged bombs, small radar-guided
In certain recent types, the range can be stated as several hundred miles. So far as I have learned, after weeks of rechecking this point, not a single long-range missile has been identified as Russian.
Since this country is working closely with Great Britain on global defense problems, it is no violation of security to say that we have probably exchanged certain guided-missile information. In regard to the British long-range missile picture outlined to me by John Steele, I can state two major facts:
1. The British have categorically denied testing such long-range missiles over American territory, where they might endanger American citizens. There is convincing evidence that they are telling the truth.
2. There is no British missile now built, or planned, that could explain the objects seen by Captain Mantell, Chiles and Whitted, and witnesses in most of the major sightings.
The preceding statement applies equally to American-built missiles. There is no experimental craft or guided missile even remotely considered in this country that would begin to approach the dimensions and performance of the space ships seen in these cases.
There is concrete evidence that the United States is as well advanced as any other nation in guided-missile development. Certain recent advances should place us in the lead, unless confidential reports on Soviet progress are completely wrong.
If American scientists and engineers can learn the source of the space ships' power and adapt it to our use, it may well be the means for ending the threat of war. The Soviet scientists are well aware of this; their research into cosmic rays and other natural forces has been redoubled since the flying-saucer reports of 1947.
The secret of the space ships' power is more important than even the hydrogen bomb. It may someday be the key to the fate of the world.
Chapter XXAFTER one year's investigation of the flying saucers and Air Force operations, I have come to the following conclusions:
1. The Air Force was puzzled and badly worried when the disks first were sighted in 1947.
2. The Air Force began to suspect the truth soon after Mantell's death--perhaps even before.
3. Project "Saucer" was set up to investigate and at the same time conceal from the public the truth about the saucers.
4. During the spring of 1949 this policy, which had been strictly maintained by Forrestal, underwent an abrupt change. On top-level orders, it was decided to let the facts gradually leak out, in order to prepare the American people.
5. This was the reason for the April 27, 1949, report, with its suggestions about space visitors.
6. While I was preparing the article for the January 1950 issue of True, it had been considered in line with the general education program. But the unexpected public reaction was mistaken by the Air Force for hysteria, resulting in their hasty denial that the saucers existed.
7. Because the Air Force feared any closer analysis of the Mantell case, Major Boggs was instructed to publicize the Venus explanation. Although it had been denied, the Air Force knew that most people had forgotten this or had never known it.
8. Major Boggs, having stated this answer publicly (along with the other Chiles-Whitted and Gorman answers), was forced to stick to it, though he knew it was wrong and that the case summaries would prove it.
9. The case summaries were released to a small number of Washington newsmen, to continue planting the space-travel thought; this decision being made after True's reception proved to the Air Force that the public was better prepared than had been thought.
In regard to the flying saucers themselves, I believe
1. The earth has been under periodic observation from another planet, or other planets, for at least two centuries.
2. This observation suddenly increased in 1947, following the series of A-bomb explosions begun in 1945.
3. The observation, now intermittent, is part of a long-range survey and will continue indefinitely. No immediate attempt to contact the earth seems evident. There may be some unknown block to making contact, but it is more probable that the spacemen's plans are not complete.
I believe that the Air Force is still investigating the saucer sightings, either through the Air Materiel Command or some other headquarters. It is possible that some Air Force officials still fear a panic when the truth is officially revealed. In that case, we may continue for a long time to see routine denials alternating with new suggestions of interplanetary travel.
The education problem is complicated by two imperative needs. We must try to learn as much as we can about the space ships' source of power, and at the same time try to prevent clues to this information from reaching an enemy on earth,
If censorship is suddenly imposed on all flying-saucer reports, this will be the chief reason. This would also help solve a minor problem where partial censorship now exists. A few test missiles launched from a southwest base have been seen by citizens at a distance from the proving grounds. In some cases, their reports have got into local papers, though the wire services did not carry them.
These missile tests are peculiarly different from the general run of flying-saucer reports. Contrasted with the Chiles-Whitted, Mantell, and other space-ship sightings, they stand out with a certain pattern, easy to recognize. News or radio reports of these tests might accidentally give an enemy clues to the type, speed, and range of this particular missile, once he learned the pattern. Periodic censorship, or even a complete blackout of sighting reports, may be enforced during the next year or so.
For the purposes mentioned, such action would be
I also believe that a certain group of disk sightings in this country is linked with our guided missiles. Official announcements, of course, may be delayed a long time. With this exception, I believe that Americans should be told the truth, now.
When the announcement of our guided missiles is made, some Americans not familiar with the facts may accept it as a full answer. If officials are not yet ready to reveal the space-travel facts, the Mantell evidence and other key cases may be deliberately glossed over.
But even if all the evidence--the world-wide sightings, the old records, the Chiles-Whitted and other cases--should be completely ignored, Americans cannot escape eventual contact with dwellers on other planets. Even though space visitors never attempt contact with us, sooner or later earthlings will be traveling to distant planets--planets that scientists have said are almost surely inhabited.
The American people have proved their ability to take incredible things. We have survived the stunning impact of the Atomic Age. We should be able to take the Interplanetary Age, when it comes, without hysteria.