Chapter XIVThat evening, after my talk with Redell, the question kept coming back in my mind.
What were they like? And what were they doing here?
From the long record of sightings, it was possible to get an answer to the second question. Observation of the earth followed a general pattern. According to the reports, Europe, the most populated area, had been more closely observed than the rest of the globe until about 1870. By this time, the United States, beginning to rival Europe in industrial progress, had evidently become of interest to the space-ship crews.
From then on, Europe and the Western Hemisphere, chiefly North America, shared the observers' attention. The few sightings reported at other points around the world indicate an occasional check-up on the earth in general. Apparently World War I had not greatly concerned the space observers. One reason might be that our aerial operations were still at a relatively low altitude.
But World War II had drawn more attention, and this had obviously increased from 1947 up to the present time. Our atomic-bomb explosions and the V-2 high-altitude experiments might be only coincidence, but I could think of no other development that might seriously concern dwellers on other planets.
It was a strange thing to think of some far-off race keeping track of the earth's progress. If Redell was right, it might even have started in prehistoric time; a brief survey, perhaps once a century or even further spaced, then gradually more frequent observation as cities appeared on the earth.
Somewhere on a distant planet there would be records of that long survey. I wondered how our development would appear to that far-advanced race. They would have seen the slow sailing ships, the first steamships, the lines of steel tracks that carried our first trains.
Watching for our first aircraft, they would see the drifting balloons that seemed an aerial miracle when the
During the last two centuries, they would have watched a dozen wars, each one fiercer than the last, spreading over the globe. Adding up all the things they had seen, they could draw an accurate picture of man, the earth creature, and the increasingly fierce struggle between the earth races.
The long survey held no sign of menace. If there had been a guiding purpose of attack and destruction, it could have been carried out years ago. It was almost certain that any planet race able to traverse space would have the means for attack.
More than once, during this investigation, I had been asked: "If the saucers are interplanetary, why haven't they landed here? Why haven't their crews tried to make contact with us?"
There was always the possibility that the planet race or races could not survive on earth, or that their communications did not include the methods that we used. But I found that hard to believe. Such a superior race would certainly be able to master our radio operations, or anything else that we had developed, in a fairly short time. And it should be equally simple to devise some means of survival on earth, just as we were already planning special suits and helmets for existence on the moon. During a talk with a former Intelligence officer, I got a key to the probable explanation.
"Why don't you just reverse it--list what we intend to do when we start exploring space? That'll give you the approximate picture of what visitors to the earth would be doing."
Naturally, all the details of space plans have not been worked out, but the general plan is clear. After the first successful earth satellites, we will either attempt a space base farther out or else launch a moon rocket. Probably many round trips to the moon will be made before going farther in space.
According to Air Force reports, it is almost a certainty that planets outside the solar system are inhabited. But because of the vast distances involved, expeditions to our neighboring planets may be tried before the more formidable journeys. More than one prominent astronomer believes that life, entirely different from our own, may exist on some solar planets. Besides Mars, Jupiter, and Venus, there are five more that, like the earth, revolve around the sun.
One of the prominent authorities is Dr. H. Spencer Jones, Astronomer Royal. In his book Life on Other Worlds, Dr. Jones points out that everything about us is the result of changing processes, begun millenniums ago and still going on. We cannot define life solely in our own terms; it can exist in unfamiliar forms.
"It is conceivable," Dr. Jones states in his book, "that we could have beings, the cells of whose bodies contained silicon instead of the carbon which is an essential constituent of our cells and of all other living cells on the earth. And that because of this essential difference between the constitution of those cells and the cells of which animal and plant life on the earth are built up, they might be able to exist at temperatures so high that no terrestrial types of life could survive."
According to Dr. Jones, then, life could be possible on worlds hotter and drier than ours; it could also exist on a very much colder one, such as Mars.
Even if a survey of the sun's planets proved fruitless, it would decide the question of their being populated. Also, it would provide valuable experience for the much longer journeys into space.
No one expects such a survey until we have a space vehicle able to make the round trip. One-way trips would tell us nothing, even if volunteers offered to make such suicidal journeys.
The most probable step will be to launch a space vehicle equipped with supplies for a long time, perhaps a year or two, within the solar system. Since Mars has been frequently mentioned as a source of the flying
As the space ship neared Mars, it could be turned to circle the planet in an orbit, just like our planned earth satellite vehicle. Once in this orbit, it could circle indefinitely without using fuel except to correct its course.
From this space base, unmanned remote-control "observer" units with television "eyes" or other transmitters would be sent down to survey the planet at close range. If it then seemed fairly safe, a manned unit could be released to make a more thorough check-up.
Such preliminary caution would be imperative. Our explorers would have no idea of what awaited them. The planet might be uninhabited. It might be peopled by a fiercely barbarous race unaware of civilization as we know it. Or it might have a civilization far in advance of ours.
The explorers would first try to get a general idea of the whole planet. Then they would attempt to examine the most densely populated areas, types of armature, any aircraft likely to attack them. Combing the radio spectrum, they would pick up and record sounds and signals in order to decipher the language.
As on earth, they might hear a hodgepodge of tongues. The next step would be to select the most technically advanced nation, listen in, and try to learn its language, or record it for deciphering afterward on earth.
Our astronomers already have analyzed Mars's atmosphere, but the explorers would have to confirm their reports, to find out whether the atmosphere at the surface would support their lungs if they landed. The easiest way would be to send down manned or unmanned units with special apparatus to scoop in atmosphere samples. Later analysis would tell whether earthlings would need oxygen-helmet suits such as we plan to use on the moon.
But before risking flight at such low altitudes, the explorers would first learn everything possible about the planet's aircraft, if any. They would try to determine their top ceiling, maximum speed, maneuverability, and if possible their weapons. Mitch of this could be done by sending down remote-control "observer" disks, or
It might even be necessary to lure some Martian aircraft into pursuit of our units, to find out their performance. But our explorers would above all avoid any sign of hostility; they would hastily withdraw to show they had no warlike intentions.
If the appearance of our observer units and manned craft caused too violent reactions on the planet, the explorers would withdraw to their orbiting space vehicle and either wait for a lull or else start the long trip back home. Another interplanetary craft from the earth might take its place later to resume periodic surveys.
In this way, a vast amount of information could be collected without once making contact with the strange race. If they seemed belligerent or uncivilized, we would probably end our survey and check on the next possibly inhabited planet. If we found they were highly civilized, we would undoubtedly attempt later contact. But it might take a long time, decades of observation and analysis, before we were ready for that final step.
We might find a civilization not quite so advanced as ours. It might not yet have developed radio and television. We would then have no way of getting a detailed picture, learning the languages, or communicating with the Martians. Analysis of their atmosphere might show a great hazard to earthlings, one making it impossible to land or requiring years of research to overcome. There might be other obstacles beyond our present understanding.
This same procedure would apply to the rest of the solar-system planets and to more distant systems. Since Wolf 359 is the nearest star outside our system that is likely to have inhabited planets, one of these planets would probably be listed as the first to explore in far-distant space. It would be a tremendous undertaking, unless the speed of light can be exceeded in space. Since
If we assume half that speed--which would still be an incredible attainment with our present knowledge--our space explorers would have to dedicate at least thirty-two years to the hazardous, lonely round trip. However, there has never been a lack of volunteers for grand undertakings in the history of man.
It is quite possible that in our survey of the solar-system planets we would find some inhabited, but not advanced enough to be of interest to us. Periodically, we might make return visits to note their progress. Meantime, our astronomers would watch these planets, probably developing new, higher powered telescopes for the purpose, to detect any signs of unusual activity. Any tremendous explosion on a planet would immediately concern us.
Such an explosion, on Mars, was reported by astronomers on January 16, 1950. The cause and general effects are still being debated. Sadao Saeki, the Japanese astronomer who first reported it at Osaka, believes it was of volcanic nature.
The explosion created a cloud over an area about seven hundred miles in diameter and forty miles high. It was dull gray with a yellowish tinge and a different color from the atmospheric phenomena customarily seen near Mars. Saeki believes the blast might have destroyed any form of life existing on the planet, but even though the telescopic camera recorded a violent explosion, other authorities do not believe the planet was wrecked. The canals first discovered on Mars by Giovanni Schiaparelli, about 1877, are still apparent on photographs.
Mars is now being carefully watched by astronomers. If there are more of the strange explosions, the planet will be scanned constantly for some clue to their nature.
If a mysterious explosion on Mars, or any other planet, were found of atomic origin, it would cause serious concern on earth. Suppose for a moment that it happened many years from now, when we will have succeeded in
Then comes this violent explosion. A scientific analysis of the cloud by astrophysicists here on earth proves it was of atomic origin.
The first reaction would undoubtedly be an immediate resurvey of Mars. As quickly as possible, we would establish an orbiting space base--out of range of Martian rockets--and try to find how far they had advanced with atomic bombs.
Samples of the Martian atmosphere would be collected and analyzed for telltale radiation. Observer units would be flown over the planet, with instruments to locate atom-bomb plants and possibly uranium deposits. The rocket-launching bases would also come under close observation. We would try to learn how close the scientists were to escaping the pull of gravity. Since Mars's gravity is much less than the earth's, the Martians would not have so far to progress before succeeding in space travel.
The detailed survey by our space-base observers would probably show that there was no immediate danger to the earth. It might take one hundred years--perhaps five hundred--before the Martians could be a problem. Eventually, the time would come when Mars would send out space-ship explorers. They would undoubtedly discover that the earth was populated with a technically advanced civilization. Any warlike ideas they had in mind could be quickly ended by a show of our superior space craft and our own atomic weapons--probably far superior to any on Mars. It might even be possible that by then we would have finally outlawed war; if so, a promise to share the peaceful benefits of our technical knowledge might be enough to bring Martian leaders into line.
Regardless of our final decision, we would certainly keep a lose watch on Mars--or any other planet that seemed a possible threat.
Now, if our space-exploration program is just reversed, it will give a reasonable picture of how visitors from
1. World-wide sightings at long intervals up to the middle of the nineteenth century.
2. Concentration on Europe, as the most advanced section of the globe, until late in the nineteenth century.
3. Frequent surveys of America in the latter part of the nineteenth century, as we began to develop industrially, with cities springing up across the land.
4. Periodic surveys of both America and Europe during the gradual development of aircraft, from the early 1900's up to World War II.
5. An increase of observation during World War II, after German V-2's were launched up into the stratosphere.
6. A steadily increasing survey after our atomic-bomb explosions in New Mexico, Japan, Bikini, and Eniwetok.
7. A second spurt of observations following atom-bomb explosions in Soviet Russia.
8. Continuing observations of the earth at regular intervals, with most attention concentrated on the United States, the present leader in atomic weapons. (Saucers have been reported seen over the Soviet Union, but the number is unknown. There is some evidence that Russia has an investigative unit similar to Project "Saucer.")There are other points of similarity to the program of American space exploration that I have outlined. Most of the extremely large saucers have been at high altitudes, some of them many miles above the earth. At that height, a space ship would be in no danger from our planes and antiaircraft guns and rockets. The smaller disks and the mystery lights have been seen at low altitudes. Occasionally a larger saucer has been seen to approach the earth briefly, as at Lockbourne Air Force Base, at Bethel, Alabama, at Macon and Montgomery, and other places. It has been suggested that this was for the purpose of securing atmospheric samples. It could also be to afford personal observation by the crews.
The numerous small disks seen in the first part of
Authentic reports have described sightings; over the following Air Force bases: Chanute, Newark, Andrews, Hickam, Robbins, Godman, Clark, Fairfield Suisan, Davis-Monthan, Harmon, Wright-Patterson, Holloman, Clinton County Air Force Base, and air bases in Alaska, Germany, and the Azores. Saucers have also been sighted over naval air stations at Dallas, Alameda, and Key West, and from the station at Seattle. They have been reported maneuvering over the White Sands Proving Ground, over areas containing atomic developments, above the Muroc Air Base testing area, and over the super-secret research base near Albuquerque.
Several times saucers have paced both military and civil aircraft; their actions strongly indicate deliberate encounters to learn our planes' speed and performance.
It seems obvious that both the planes and the bases were being observed, and in some cases photographed by remote-control units or manned space ships.
Although I thought it improbable that the location of our uranium deposits would be of interest to space men, a Washington official told me it would be relatively simple to detect the ore areas with airborne instruments.
"The Geological Survey has already developed special Geiger counters for planes," he told me. "They had a little trouble from cosmic-ray noise. They finally had to cover the Geiger’s with lead shields. Whenever an important amount of radiation is present in the ground, the plane crew gets a signal, and they spot the place on their map. It's a quick way of locating valuable deposits."
When I told him what I had in mind, he suggested an angle I had not considered.
"Mind you," he said, "I'm not completely sold on the interplanetary answer. But assuming it's correct that we're being observed, I can think of a stronger reason
At the time, I thought this was just idle speculation. But since then, several atomic scientists have confirmed this official's suggestion. One of these was Dr. Paul Elliott, a nuclear physicist who worked on the A-bomb during the war.
According to Dr. Elliott, if several hydrogen bombs were exploded simultaneously at a high altitude, it could speed up the earth's rotation or change its orbit. He based his statement on the rate of energy the earth receives from the sun, a rate equal to some four pounds of hydrogen exploded every second. Still other atomic scientists have said that H-bomb explosions might even knock a large chunk out of the earth, with unpredictable results.
A dramatic picture of what might happen if the earth were forced far out of its orbit is indicated in the much-discussed book Worlds in Collision, by Dr. Immanuel Velikovsky, recently published by Macmillan. After many years of research, Dr. Velikovsky presents strong evidence that the planet Venus, when still a comet resulting from eruption from a larger planet, moved erratically about the sky and violently disturbed both the earth and Mars.
When the comet approached the earth, our planet was forced out of its orbit, according to Worlds in Collision. For a time, the world was on the brink of destruction. Quoting many authentic ancient records, including the Quiché manuscript of the Mayas, the Ipuwer papyrus of the Egyptians, and the Visiddhi-Magga of the Buddhists, Dr. Velikovsky describes the cataclysm that took place. "The face of the earth changed," he writes in his book. The details, reinforced by the Zend-Avesta of the Persians, tell of tremendous hurricanes, of a major upheaval
Professor Horace M. Kallen, former dean of the New School of Social Research, strongly endorses Dr. Velikovsky's statements: "It is my belief that Velikovsky has supported his theses with substantial evidence and made an effective and persuasive argument."
Many other authorities endorse this work, which is documented with impressive references. But even if this particular account is not accepted, all astronomers agree that the effect of a comet passing near the earth would be appalling. Worlds in Collision states that Mars, like the earth, was pulled out of its orbit by the comet's erratic passage. It may be that this near disaster to the earth and Mars is known on other solar planets, or remembered on Mars itself, if the planet is inhabited.
The possibility of super-bomb explosions on the earth understandably disturb any dwellers on other solar-system planets.
This may be what was back of the Project "Saucer" statement on the probable motives of any visitors from space. I mentioned this Air Force statement in an earlier chapter, but it may be of interest to repeat it at this time. The comment appeared in a confidential analysis of Intelligence reports, in the formerly secret Project "Saucer" document, "Report on Unidentified Aerial and Celestial Objects." It reads as follows:
"Such a civilization might observe that on earth we now have atomic bombs and are fast developing rockets. In view of the past history of mankind, they should be alarmed. We should therefore expect at this time above all to behold such visitations.
"Since the acts of mankind most easily observed from a distance are A-bomb explosions, we should expect some relation to obtain between the time of the A-bomb explosions, the time at which the space ships are seen, and the time required for such ships to arrive from and return to home base."
Chapter XVIt was early in October 1949 when I finished the reversal of our space-exploration plans. I spent the next two days running down a sighting report from a town in Pennsylvania. Like three or four other tips that had seemed important at first, it turned out to be a dud.
When I got back home, I found Ken Purdy had been trying to reach me. I phoned him at True, and he asked me to fly up to New York the next day.
"I've just heard there's another magazine working on the saucer story," he told me.
"Who is it?" I said.
"I don't know yet. It may be just a rumor, but we can't take a chance. We've got to get this in the January book."
That night I gathered up all the material. It looked hopeless to condense it into one article, and I knew that Purdy had even more investigators' reports waiting for me in New York. Flying up the next morning, I suddenly thought of a talk I'd had with an air transport official. It was in Washington; I had just told him about the investigation.
"If they are spacemen," he said, "they'd probably have a hard time figuring out this country by listening to our broadcasts. Imagine tuning in soap operas, 'The Lone Ranger,' and a couple of crime yarns, along with newscasts about strikes and murders and the cold war. They might pick up some of those kid programs about rocket ships. A few days of listening to that stuff--well, it would give them one hell of a picture."
Except for some hoax reports, this was the first funny suggestion I'd had about the spacemen. But now, thinking seriously about it, I realized he had an important point. It was possible that men from another planet might have to reorient even their way of thinking to understand the earth's ways. It would not be automatic, despite their superior technical progress. Evolution might have produced basic differences in their understanding of life. Humor, for instance, might be totally lacking in their make-up.
I'd tried to imagine how they might look, without getting anywhere. Dr. H. Spencer Jones hadn't helped much with his Life on Other Worlds. I couldn't begin to visualize beings with totally different cells, perhaps able to take terrific heat or bitter cold as merely normal weather.
There were all kinds of possibilities. If they lived on Mars, for instance, perhaps they couldn't take the heavier gravity of the earth. They might be easily subject to our diseases, especially if they had destroyed disease germs on their planet--a natural step for an advanced race.
It was possible, I knew, that the spacemen might look grotesque to us. But I clung to a stubborn feeling that they would resemble man. That came, of course, from an inborn feeling of man's superiority over all living things. It carried over into a feeling that any thinking, intelligent being, whether on Mars or Wolf 359's planets, should have evolved in the same form.
I gave up trying to imagine how the spacemen might look. There was simply nothing to go on. But there were strong indications of how they thought and reacted. Certain qualities were plainly evident.
Intelligence. No one could dispute that. It took a high order of mentality to construct and operate a space ship.
Courage. It would take brave men to face the hazards of space.
Curiosity. Without this quality, they would never have thought to explore far-distant planets.
There were other qualities that seemed almost equally certain. These spacemen apparently lacked belligerence; there had been no sign of hostility through all the years. They were seemingly painstaking and extremely methodical.
It was still not much of a picture. But somehow, it was encouraging.
Glancing down from the plane's window, I thought: How does this look to them? Our farms, our cities, the railroads there below; the highways, with the speeding cars and trucks; the winding river, and far off to the right, the broad stretch of the Atlantic.
Manhattan came into sight, as the pilot let down for the landing. An odd thought popped into my mind. How would a spaceman react if he saw a Broadway show?
Not long before, I had seen South Pacific. I could still hear Ezio Pinza's magnificent voice as he sang "Some Enchanted Evening."
Was music a part of spacemen's lives, or would it be something new and strange, perhaps completely distasteful?
They might live and think on a coldly intelligent level, without a touch of what we know as emotion. To them, our lives might seem meaningless and dull. We ourselves might appear grotesque in form.
But in their progress, there must have been struggle, trial and error, some feeling of triumph at success. Surely these would be emotional forces, bound to reflect in the planet races. Perhaps, in spite of some differences, we would find a common bond--the bond of thinking, intelligent creatures trying to better themselves.
The airliner landed and taxied in to unload.
As I went down the gangway I suddenly realized something. My last vague fear was gone.
It had not been a personal fear of the visitors from space. It had been a selfish fear of the impact on my life. I realized that now.
It might be a long time before they would try to make contact. But I had a conviction that when it came, it would be a peaceful mission, not an ultimatum. It could even be the means of ending wars on earth.
But I had been conditioned to this thing. I had had six months of preparation, six months to go from complete skepticism to slow, final acceptance.
What if it had been thrown at me in black headlines?
Even a peaceful contact by beings from another planet would profoundly affect the world. The story in True might play an important part in that final effect. Carefully done, it could help prepare Americans for the official disclosure.
But if it weren't done right, we might be opening a Pandora's box.
Chapter XVIThat morning, at True, we made the final decisions on how to handle the story. Using the evidence of the Mantell case, the Chiles-Whitted report, Gorman's mystery-light encounter, and other authentic cases, along with the records of early sightings, we would state our main conclusion: that the flying saucers were interplanetary.
In going over the mass of reports, Purdy and I both realized that a few sightings did not fit the space-observer pattern. Most of these reports came from the southwest states, where guided-missile experiments were going on.
Purdy agreed with Paul Redell that any long-range tests would be made over the sea or unpopulated areas, with every attempt at secrecy.
"They might make short-range tests down there in New Mexico and Arizona-maybe over Texas," he said. "But they'd never risk killing people by shooting the things all over the country."
"They've already set up a three-thousand-mile range for the longer runs," I added. "It runs from Florida into the South Atlantic. And the Navy missiles at Point Mugu are launched out over the Pacific. Any guided missiles coming down over settled areas would certainly be an accident. Besides all that, no missile on earth can explain these major cases."
Purdy was emphatic about speculating on our guided-missile research.
"Suppose you analyzed these minor cases that look like missile tests. You might accidentally give away something important, like their range and speeds. Look what the Russians did with the A-bomb hints Washington let out."
It was finally decided that we would briefly mention the guided missiles, along with the fact that the armed services had flatly denied any link with the saucers.
"After all, interplanetary travel is the main story," said Purdy. "And the Mantell case alone proves we've
The question of the story's impact worried both of us. Public acceptance of intelligent life on other planets would affect almost every phase of our existence-business, defense planning, philosophy, even religion. Of course, the immediate effect was more important. Personally, I thought that most Americans could take even an official announcement without too much trouble. But I could be wrong.
"The only yardstick--and that's not much good--is that 'little men' story," said Purdy. "A lot of people have got excited about it, but they seem more interested than scared."
The story of the "little men from Venus" had been circulating for some time. In the usual version, two flying saucers had come down near our southwest border. In the space craft were several oddly dressed men, three feet high. All of them were dead; the cause was usually given as inability to stand our atmosphere. The Air Force was said to have hushed up the story, so that the public could be educated gradually to the truth. Though it had all the earmarks of a well-thought-out hoax, many newspapers had repeated the story. It had even been broadcast as fact on several radio newscasts. But there had been no signs of public alarm.
"It looks as if people have come a long way since that Orson Welles scare," I said to Purdy.
"But there isn't any menace in this story," he objected. "The crews were reported dead, so everybody got the idea that spacemen couldn't live if they landed. What if a space ship should suddenly come down over a big city--say New York--low enough for millions of people to see it?"
"It might cause a stampede," I said,
Purdy snorted. "It would be a miracle if it didn't, unless people had been fully prepared. If we do a straight fact piece, just giving the evidence, it will start the ball rolling. People at least will be thinking about it."
Before I left for Washington, I told Purdy of my last visit to the Pentagon. I had informed Air Force press
At this time I had also asked if Project "Saucer" files were now available. The Wright Field unit, I was told, still was a classified project, both its files and its photographs secret. This had been the first week in October.
When I asked if there was any other information on published cases, the answer again was negative. The April 27th report, according to Press Branch officials, was still an accurate statement of Air Force opinions and policies. So far as they knew, no other explanations had be n found for the unidentified saucers.
“I’m absolutely convinced now," I told Purdy, "that here's an official policy to let the thing leak out. It explains why Forrestal announced our Earth Satellite Vehicle program, years before we could even start to build it. It also would explain those Project 'Saucer' hints in the April report."
"I think we're being used as a trial balloon," Purdy said thoughtfully. "We've let them know what we're doing. If they'd wanted to stop us, the Air Force could easily have done it. All they'd have to do would be call us in, give us the dope off the record, and tell us it was a patriotic duty to keep still. Just the way they did about uranium and atomic experiments during the war."
He still did not have the name of the other magazine supposed to be working on the saucers. But it seemed a reliable tip (it later proved to be true), and from then on we worked under high pressure.
In writing the article, I used only the most authentic recent sightings; all of the cases were in the Air Force reports. When it came to the Mantell case, I stuck to published estimates of the strange object's size; a mysterious ship 250 to 300 feet in diameter was startling enough. At first, I chose Mars to illustrate our space explorations. But Mars had been associated with the Orson Welles stampede. Most discussions of the planet had a menacing note, perhaps because of its warlike name.
As finally revised, the article, written under my byline, stated the following points as the conclusions reached by True:
1. For the past 175 years, the earth has been under systematic close-range examination by living, intelligent observers from another planet.
2. The intensity of this observation, and the frequency of the visits to the earth's atmosphere have increased markedly during the past two years.
3. The vehicles used for this observation and for interplanetary transport by the explorers have been classed as follows: Type I, a small, non-pilot-carrying disk-shaped craft equipped with some form of television or impulse transmitter; Type II, a very large, metallic, disk-shaped aircraft operating on the helicopter principle; Type III, a dirigible-shaped, wingless aircraft that, in the Earth's atmosphere, operates in conformance with the Prandtl theory of lift.
4. The discernible patterns of observation and exploration shown by the so-called flying disks varies in no important particular from well-developed American plans for the exploration of space, expected to come to fruition within the next fifty years. There is reason to believe, however, that some other race of thinking beings is a matter of two and a quarter centuries ahead of us.
Following these points, I added a brief comment on the possibility of guided missiles, adding that the Air Force had convincingly denied this as an explanation of any sightings. As Purdy had suggested, I carefully omitted ten minor cases that I thought might be linked with guided-missile research. If disclosing the facts about space travel helped to divert attention from any secret tests, so much the better.
"True accepts the official denial of any secret device," I stated, "because the weight of the evidence, especially the world-wide sightings, does not support such a belief."
The fact that the earth had been observed by beings from another planet would be fully presented. Some readers, of course, would reject even the fact that the saucers existed. Others would cling to the idea that they were of earthly origin. But the mass of evidence would make most readers think. At the very least, it would plant one strong suggestion: that we, men and women of the earth, are not the only intelligent species in the universe. When the article was finished, it was tried out on True's staff, then on a picked group that had not known about the investigation. One editor summed up the average opinion:
"It will cause a lot of discussion, but the way it's written, it shouldn't start any panic."
The January issue, in which the story ran, was due on the stands shortly after Christmas. With my family, I had gone to Ottumwa, Iowa, to spend the holidays with my mother and sister. While I was there, the story broke unexpectedly on radio networks.
Frank Edwards, Mutual network newscaster, led off the radio comment. He was followed by Walter Winchell, Lowell Thomas, Morgan Beatty, and most of the other radio commentators. The wire services quickly picked it up; some papers ran front-page stories.
The publicity was far more than I had expected. I phoned a reporter in Washington whose beat includes the Pentagon.
"The Air Force is running around in circles," he told me. "They knew your story was due, but nobody thought it would raise such a fuss. I think they're scared of hysteria. They're getting a barrage of wires and telephone calls."
That night, as I was packing to rush back east, he called with the latest news.
"They're going to deny the whole thing," he said. "But I heard one Press Branch guy say it might not be enough
Next day, while changing trains at Chicago, I saw the Air Force statement. The press release was dated December 27, 1949. Without mentioning True, the Air Force flatly denied having any evidence that flying saucers exist. After examining 375 reports, the release said, Project "Saucer" had found that they were caused by:
1. Misinterpretation of various conventional objects.
2. A mild form of mass hysteria or "war nerves."
3. Individuals who fabricate such reports to perpetrate a hoax or to seek publicity.
Evaluation of the reports of unidentified flying objects, said the Air Force, demonstrates that they constitute no direct threat to the national security of the United States.
Then came the clincher: Project "Saucer," said the Air Force, had been discontinued, now that all the reports had been explained.
It was plain that the release had been hastily prepared. It completely contradicted the detailed Project "Saucer" report, issued eight months before that had called for constant vigilance, after admitting that most important cases were unsolved. Anyone familiar with the situation would see the discrepancy at once.
From Washington I flew to New York, where I found True in turmoil. Long-distance calls were pouring in. Letters on flying saucers had swamped the mail room. Reporters were hounding Purdy for more information.
A hurried analysis of the first hundred letters showed a trend that later mail confirmed. Less than 5 per cent of the readers ridiculed the article. Between 15 and 20 per cent said they were not convinced; a few of these admitted they could not refute the evidence. About half the readers accepted the possibility; most of these said they saw no reason why other planets should not be inhabited. The remainder, between 25 and 30 per cent, said they were completely convinced.
Even the disbelievers asked for more information. The intelligence level of the average letter was gratifyingly high. Comments came from scientists, engineers, airline and private pilots, college professors, officers of the armed
Several confidential tips had come in when I arrived. Most of them were from usually reputable sources. We were given evidence that Project "Saucer" was still in operation; since its true code name was not "Saucer," it could be continued without violating the Air Force press release. This same information was received from a dozen sources within the next two weeks. We were also told that there had been 722 cases, instead of 375.
Meantime, a number of astronomers had come out with statements, pro and con. One of these was Dr. Dean B. McLaughlin, of the University of Michigan.
"No one knows what the saucers are as yet," Dr. McLaughlin said. "They could be anything, and I'm willing to be convinced once the evidence is presented."
Dr. Bart J. Bok of Harvard was on the fence: "After all," he said, "all sort of things float around in space. But I'm not convinced the saucers are anything apart from the earth."
Another Harvard astronomer, Dr. Armin J. Deutsch, took an oblique poke at True and me. "I don't think anyone--and that includes astronomers--knows enough about them to reach any conclusions."
After this came the comment of Dr. Carl F. von Weizacker--that billions of stars may have planets and many could be inhabited.
Within a few days we had a huge stack of clippings, some supporting True, some deriding us. In the midst of all this, I read scientists' comments on Einstein's new unified-field theory, which had been printed about the time True appeared on the stands. A discussion by Lincoln Barnett, author of The Universe and Dr. Einstein, explained the basic premise--that gravitation and electromagnetic force are inseparable. As I read it, I thought of what Redell had said. If gravitation were a manifestation of electromagnetic force, was it possible that an advanced race had found a way--as unique as splitting the atom--to offset gravity and utilize that force?
It was during these first tense days that we ran down the White Sands story. This also ended another puzzle--
The race had been closer than we knew. The editors of a national magazine had learned of Commander McLaughlin and the sightings at White Sands. Two of the staff had carefully investigated the details. Convinced that the report was accurate, they had planned to run the story in an early issue.
Since True had appeared first with the space-travel story, the editors agreed to release the McLaughlin report for use in our March issue. The basic facts were in close agreement with what Redell had told me.
The ellipsoid-shaped saucer had been tracked at a height of 56 miles, its speed 5 miles per second. This was 18,000 miles per hour, even faster than Redell had said. The strange craft, 105 feet in length, had climbed as swiftly as Marvin Miles had described it--an increase in altitude of about 25 miles in 10 seconds.
Commander McLaughlin stated in his article that he was convinced the object was a space ship from another planet, operated by animate, intelligent beings. He also described two small circular objects, about twenty inches in diameter that streaked up beside a Navy high-altitude missile. After maneuvering around it for a moment, both disks accelerated, passed the fast-moving Navy missile, and disappeared.
It is Commander McLaughlin's opinion that the saucers come from Mars. Pointing out that Mars was in a good position to see our surface on July 16, 1945; he believes that the flash of the first A-bomb, at Alamogordo Base, a point not far from White Sands, was caught by powerful telescopes.
During the first week of January, I appeared on "We, the People," with Lieutenant George Gorman. When I saw Gorman, before rehearsals, he seemed oddly constrained. I had a feeling that he had been warned about talking freely. During rehearsals, he changed his lines in the script. When the writers argued over a point, Gorman told them:
"I can say only what was in my published report--nothing else."
Meantime, an A.P. story carried a new Air Force announcement. Formerly secret Project "Saucer" files would be opened to newsmen at the Pentagon, giving the answers to all the saucer reports.
Just after my return to Washington, I saw an I.N.S. story that was widely printed. It was an interview with Major Jerry Boggs, a Project "Saucer" Intelligence officer who served as liaison man between Wright Field and the Pentagon. Major Boggs had been asked for specific answers to the Mantell, Chiles-Whitted, and Gorman cases.
The answers he gave amazed me. I picked up the phone and called the Air Force Press Branch. After some delay, I was told that Major Boggs was being briefed for assignment to Germany. An interview would be almost impossible.
"He wasn't too busy to talk with I.N.S.," I said. "All I want is thirty minutes."
Later, Jack Shea, a civilian press official I had known for some time, arranged for the meeting. I was also to talk with General Sory Smith, Deputy Director for Air Information.
Major Jesse Stay, a Press Branch officer, took me to General Smith's office for the interview. Both Jesse and Jack Shea, pleasant, obliging chaps who had helped me in the past, tried earnestly to convince me the saucers didn't exist. Jesse was still trying when Major Boggs came in.
Boggs looked to be in his twenties, younger than I had expected. He was trim, well built, with a quietly alert face. Two rows of ribbons testified to his wartime service. When Jesse Stay introduced me, Boggs gave me a curiously searching look. It could have been merely his usual way of appraising people he met. But all through our talk, I had a strong feeling that he was on his guard.
I had written out some questions, but first I mentioned the I.N.S. story.
"Yes, I was." Major Boggs looked me squarely in the eye. "Captain Mantell was chasing the planet Venus."
It was so incredible that I shook my head. "Major, Venus; was practically invisible that day. We've checked with astronomers. Is that the official Air Force answer?"
"Yes, it is," Boggs said. His eyes never left my face. I glanced across at General Sory Smith, then back at the intelligence major.
"That's a flat contradiction of Project 'Saucer's' report. Last April, after they had checked for fifteen months, they said positively it was not Venus. It was still unidentified."
Boggs said, in a slow, unruffled voice, "They rechecked after that report."
"Why did they recheck, after fifteen months?" I asked him. "'They must have gone over those figures long before that, for errors."
If my question annoyed him, Boggs gave no sign.
There's no other possible answer," he said. "Mantell was chasing Venus."