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Monday, March 26, 2012

UFOs - DONALD KEYHOE - FLYING SAUCERS FROM OUTER SPACE-FULL BOOK (2)


CHAPTER IV 
The July Crisis
 
During the first two weeks of July the saucers' reconnaissance of the earth was rapidly stepped up. Flying singly, in pairs, or in group formations, the strange machines were seen all over the world. But in the early stage there were few public sightings, at least in the United States. Most of the saucers were operating at night, and they seemed to be focusing on defense bases, atomic plants, and military planes.
            From the 8th to the 12th, for some unknown reason, one saucer group took a special interest in our Midwest states. By the 11th, the Filter Center at Ypsilanti, Michigan, was flooded with reports. But since most of them came from Air Force pilots, Intelligence could keep them secret.
            As the teletype accounts poured into Washington and Dayton, Intelligence officers watched with growing uneasiness. At first they had hoped it was only a brief flurry. But now the sighting curve was going up steeply.
            No one knew the reason for the sudden mass operation. It might be a new, large-scale reconnaissance before some final decision. It could be the first step toward contact-perhaps even mass landings.
            That thought was enough to give anyone cold chills. For five years silence had masked the intentions of those 
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who controlled the saucers. They might be planning a peaceful contact—or an all-out attack.
            Even if the first contact began peacefully, no one could be sure it would end that way. Most Americans were totally unprepared, even for friendly visitors from space. Panic might lead to wild stampedes from cities. It could also set off violent armed resistance. What the visitors would do in that event was grimly easy to guess.
            There was still a chance that the new operations would end before the public found out. So far, few sightings were known outside the Air Force. On July 5, one report had leaked out after several pilots saw a disc-shaped machine near the atomic-energy plant at Richlands, Washington. And from Korea a news dispatch had described a sighting by Canadian naval officers; for over an hour they had watched two discs maneuvering above their ship. But fortunately most reports were from service pilots, and these were confidential. Not even news correspondents at the Pentagon were aware of the growing tension.
            On July 12 another teletype report came in from the Midwest, but this, too, was kept quiet. At 9 o'clock that night a lone saucer, glowing blue-white, flashed over Indiana. At Delphi it was seen by several civilians, among them an ex-Air Force jet pilot, Jack A. Green, who is now a flight test analyst for Northrop Aircraft Company. When Green went to the Delphi police station to report the sighting, state police were already on the wire, helping the Air Force collect detailed information. The same thing occurred at several other Indiana towns, but somehow the newspapers missed the story. Fortunately, from the Air Force viewpoint, the saucer had been too high to attract wide attention.
            For 24 hours more, Intelligence officers kept their fingers crossed. But their luck was running out. On the following night the story broke wide open.
            The scene was the city of Indianapolis. It was Saturday night, and the streets and parks were crowded. Suddenly  
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a bright yellow glow appeared in the sky. As startled citizens stared upward, a huge, oval-shaped machine raced out of the southeast and over the city. Barely 5,000 feet high, it was seen by thousands of people as it streaked overhead, trailed by a fiery exhaust.
            In two minutes police, airport, and newspaper switchboards were swamped with calls from frightened citizens. Thousands more hastily spread the news to neighbors who missed the saucer. For a while a panic seemed in the mak­ing. Then, when the saucer did not return, the hysteria gradually died down.
            While the strange machine was approaching Indianapolis, it had been seen by several airline pilots. One of them was Captain Richard Case, who was flying an American Airlines Convair. When he first sighted it, his airliner was 30 miles southeast of the city, cruising at 300 miles an hour.
            "It was a controlled craft of some sort," he said when he landed. "We were flying at 5,000 feet when I first saw it. The saucer seemed to be at about 15,000, going three times faster than we were. Then it changed course and came toward us, losing altitude. It dropped to about our level, then took off northwest, over the city."
            Five other pilots soberly told the same story. One was an Eastern Air Lines captain, another from the Air Force. Until that night all had been skeptics. Now they were convinced that the saucers were ominously real.
            But it was the mass hysteria in Indianapolis that worried the Air Force.
            For the first time a saucer had flown down over a large city, low enough to be seen by thousands. Until then, Intelligence could only guess what a close-range sighting would do to large groups of people. Now they knew.
            Hours afterward the city was still tense from unanswered questions.
            Where had the saucer come from? Who had flown it? Why had it come so low over Indianapolis? 
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            Because the weird machine had passed over so swiftly, there had not been time for fright to grow into panic. But had it dived lower, circled the city, or landed, it might have set off a stampede.
            Even before the Indianapolis report reached the Air Force, they knew that some strange, high-speed craft was operating in the area. Just before the sighting, Air Force radar men at Kirksville, Missouri, had picked up a mysterious device flying with terrific velocity. Before the track could fade from their scope, they quickly computed its speed.
            The unknown machine had been making over 1,700 miles an hour. From the size of its blips, the radar men estimated it was as large as a B-36 bomber.
            Though this sighting was kept secret, by the next day the whole country knew the Indianapolis story. But this was just the beginning.
            That very night, while the Air Force was still nervously watching the Midwest reaction, another dramatic sighting hit the headlines. This time the scene was the East coast.
            At 9:12 p.m. a Pan American DC-4 approached Norfolk, Virginia, on its way to Miami. At the controls was First Officer W. B. Nash. Second Officer W. H. Fortenberry was acting as the copilot. Both men had been flying for more than ten years, with thousands of hours in airliner cockpits.
            Cruising at 8,000 feet, the DC-4 was a few miles from Newport News when a red glow appeared ahead. The pilots saw six huge, disc-shaped machines racing toward them, but at a lower altitude. The discs, which were flying in the flat position, had a brilliant orange glow like red-hot metal.
            As the formation approached, in echelon, the leader suddenly slowed, then flipped up on edge. As if on signal, the five other discs also flipped up edgewise. Almost reversing its course, the leading machine flipped back to the horizontal and streaked off to the west. Following through, 
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the others also swiftly changed their direction, then again lined up behind the leader.
            A second later two more discs shot out from under the DC-4. As they speeded up to overtake the formation, the pilots saw their color suddenly brighten. Apparently this was a clue to the strange machines' propulsion, for the first six discs had dimmed as they slowed for the turn, then had brightened again as they speeded up.
            Amazed and disturbed at what they had seen, the pilots radioed Norfolk and reported the sighting in detail. By the time Air Force Intelligence officers met them at Miami, the story was already on the press wires.
            Twelve hours later, near Newport News, a commercial pilot encountered two saucers with pulsating lights. Their speed, more than 600 miles an hour, gave him no chance to close in for a better look. That same night another saucer was sighted by naval officers at Miami and still more reports came in from Norfolk, the Bahamas, and Hampton, Virginia.
            The ink was hardly dry on these stories when a sighting near Denver broke into print. On the night of the 17th, Captain Paul L. Carpenter, flying an American Airlines DC-6, received a radio warning from a flight ahead. A flying saucer formation had just raced past the leading plane. Cruising at 25,000 feet, Carpenter and his crew turned down their cockpit lights and stared into the night.
            Then suddenly they saw four lights, moving at fantastic speed. The saucers' course took them to one side, too far to see any details. But by checking the time in sight, and the angle of sky traversed, Carpenter made a rough estimate of their speed.
            It was 3,000 miles an hour.
            For the third time in three days the saucers were front-page news. Beside Carpenter's report, the July 18 papers carried a saucer story from Veronica, Argentina. Within hours of the American Airlines sighting, six discs had been seen over the Argentine city. Hundreds of Veronica residents
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had watched them maneuver and circle before they climbed into the night.
            By this time reports were coming in from all over the United States. Some were caused by the growing excitement. People searching the sky for saucers were sometimes misled by balloons, by planes banking in the sun, or searchlights on clouds at night.
            Some Defense officials, even a few Air Force officers who hadn't seen the evidence, believed most of the sightings were caused by the saucer hysteria. But the Intelligence officers knew better. Too many veteran pilots, both military and airline, were reporting identical discs, lights, and maneuvers. Many reports from the general public had also been confirmed, though with tension increasing it did not seem wise to admit it.
            It was plain now that air bases, cities, key industries— every vital phase of our national life—were under close observation. At least three types of UFO's had been seen, one with colored, revolving lights, another with lights that blinked at intervals. It was possible the lights were some kind of signal, an attempt to communicate with the earth. But the radio silence made it seem unlikely. Intelligent beings who had mastered space travel would certainly be able to duplicate our radio transmission system. But no strange codes, or unfamiliar word-sounds, had been heard by our monitors.
            There was nothing the Air Force could do but wait. All Ground Control Intercept stations had their orders. Saucers would be tracked as swiftly as possible. If there was any hope of an interception, jets would be scrambled instantly. The pilots had their orders, to get every detail possible in hope of a clue to the sudden increase in sightings.
            But there was one thing for which the Air Force was not prepared—the insistent demands from papers that had formerly jeered at the saucers.
            At first most of these newspapers had gone on scoffing. More than one Air Force officer prayed they would keep  
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it up; wisecracks might keep down hysteria. But now many papers had stopped joking and were demanding the answers.
            On the morning of the 18th the United Press at Dayton asked for an interview with Captain Ed Ruppelt. Though General Samford's directive prohibited such interviews, Ruppelt was told to answer the questions—refusal to talk, at this time, would only increase suspicion.
            "Does the Air Force think these sightings are just hallucinations?" the UP man asked Ruppelt.
            "No," said Ruppelt, "We’re convinced that people making these reports actually see something in the sky. But what the objects are is another question."
            Answering another query, he admitted that jet fighters guided by radar had chased UFO's but had failed to catch them.
            "Some of the objects," he said, "have been tracked at speeds up to 2,000 miles an hour."
            These were honest answers. But Ruppelt's failure to identify the saucers led to new trouble. Several editors, worried by stories of Russian-built saucers, warned then-readers that this might be the answer. One foreign dispatch, which helped to bolster this fear, was based on an account in the Saarbrucken Zeitung. Published on June 28, 1952, it appeared to be a semiofficial report on a large disc found near Spitzbergen.
            According to the Zeitung, six Norwegian jet fighters had been flying near Hinlopen Straits when their radio was jammed by a strange interference. As the jet pilots circled, looking for the cause, Flight Captain Olaf Larsen spotted an enormous blue-metal disc, wrecked on the snowy ground.
            Accompanied by a rocket expert named Norsel, several Norwegian Air Force officers landed near the disc in ski-planes. No one was found aboard. The disc, said the Zeitung, was 125 feet in diameter and made of some unknown metallic substance. A plexiglass domed compartment 
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in the center contained a mass of remote-control equipment—it was one of the remote-control radio units which had caused the signal interference.
            The disc, as described in the news story, was powered by 46 jets on the outer rim. When the jets were in operation, this caused the outer ring to rotate around the stationary control unit.
            When the disc was dismantled and taken to Narvik, experts were supposed to have discovered these facts: The flight range was over 18,000 miles. The altitude range, 100 miles. The disc was equipped to carry high explosives.
            Then came the line that, in the present tense situation, could easily be dynamite:
            "The chronometers and instruments bear Russian symbols ... It is assumed the disc came from the Soviet Union and was grounded by receiver failure."
            No one in the Air Force had believed the story, but a routine check had been made. As was expected, the Norwegian government denied any knowledge of the disc. But the damage had been done. Many Americans, unaware of Norway's denial, tied the report to Dr. Mirachi's warning of another, more terrible Pearl Harbor. And so the fear of the saucers grew.
            The sighting curve was still rising. But even the confidential reports gave no hint of the reason for the nationwide reconnaissance. Only once, on the night of July 18, did a saucer maneuver as if preparing to land. Just before this, airmen at Patrick Air Force Base, in Florida, saw four of the strange devices circling near the field. Shortly after they turned away a fifth saucer came out of the west. Angling in over the base, it made a 180-degree turn, like a plane in a traffic pattern. Then, accelerating at terrific speed, it raced back to the west and vanished.
            Until this time, no other case had matched the Indianapolis sighting in its effect on the public. With all the reports from defense bases, this was thin comfort to the 
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Intelligence men in Washington. But at least the hysteria had not gotten out of hand.
            Then, on the morning of the 20th, even that thin consolation was snatched away, as Washington itself took the spotlight. The action covered a wide area, in and around the capital. But the most dramatic scenes took place in a strange, windowless room—the Air Traffic Control Center at Washington National Airport.
            Although its operations dovetail with those of the tower, the Center is located in a separate building, a fourth of a mile away. In the tower, operators control only the final approaches, landings, and take-offs. But the men at the Center reach out by long-range surveillance radar to track planes 100 miles away. Heavy traffic, even in clear weather, must be carefully funneled in to the airport approach lanes. After take-offs, airliners must be dispatched from congested areas to their assigned levels. In fog, storms, and when cloud ceilings are low, planes must be guided in by two-way radio, kept separated while pilots are flying blind, and "stacked up" when necessary, to wait their turn for landing.
            It is a precision job. The Center controllers never see the planes they guide in, as they track them on the main scope. But thousands of lives depend on their quick, accurate tracking and split-second recognition of the various aircraft blips.
            The radar room at the Center, where this night's action started, is a long dim-lit chamber, darkened so that scopes can be easily read. At midnight, as the 20th of July began, eight traffic experts, headed by Senior Controller Harry G. Barnes, entered this room and took over the watch. The night was clear, traffic was light, and the men settled down for a routine eight-hour duty.
            For a few minutes Barnes bent over the main scope, a phosphor-coated glass 24 inches in diameter, with a pale lavender glow. Traveling around the glass, like a clock hand, was a purplish streak called the "sweep." As Barnes  
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knew, the sweep's revolutions, six per minute, matched the rotation of a huge parabolic antenna on a nearby hill. The compass bearing of the sweep showed the direction of the radio beam transmitted by the antenna.
            At the time the Center was tracking a single airliner, several miles from the airport. As the rotating beam struck the plane, its echo or return was reflected to the antenna-station receiver. Highly amplified, it showed as a small round spot on the face of the cathode-ray scope. Every ten seconds a new purplish blip appeared, showing the airliner's changed position.
            From the track made by these blips, it was simple to read off the plane's course—the phosphor-coated glass retained seven blips before the first one faded. Barnes' practiced eye measured the distance between the round purplish spots. Using the ten-second interval, he could tell the plane's speed at a glance. From measurements on the scope, he also could tell the plane's location, distance from the field, and its compass bearing.
            When traffic was heavier, he and the other controllers could pencil in the tracks, marking each plane's position with a numbered plastic chip. But there was no need tonight; the sky was practically empty.
            At about 12:30, Bames went out to the supervisor's desk, leaving Controller Ed Nugent at the main scope. Two other controllers, Jim Ritchey and James Copeland, were standing a few feet away.
            At exactly 12:40, seven sharp blips suddenly appeared on the scope. Nugent stared at the glass. The strange planes, or whatever they were, seemed to have dropped out of nowhere. There was only one possible answer. The unknown machines had raced into the area at terrific speed, between sweeps, then had abruptly slowed, there in the southwest quadrant.
            "Get Barnes in here—quick!" Nugent told Copeland.
            The senior controller came on the run. Both console  
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scopes showed the strange blips. Bames hastily buzzed the tower, got Operator Howard Cocklin.
            "Our scope shows the same blips!" Cocklin said swiftly. "I can see one of the things. It's got a bright orange light— I can't tell what's behind it."
            Now really alarmed, Bames flashed word to the Air Defense Command. Then he turned back to the main scope. The unknown machines had separated. Two were over the White House, a third near the Capitol—both prohibited areas. Keeping his eyes on the glass, Bames called Andrews Field, across the Potomac in Maryland.
            "We're tracking them, too," a worried radar man told him. "We've got them the same place you have."
            "Are you sending up interceptors?" Bames asked quickly.
            "No, the field's being repaired. Our jets are up at Newcastle."
            Bames hung up, looked at the other controllers.
            "The interceptors will have to come from Delaware. It may be another half-hour."
            For several minutes they silently tracked the saucers. Then Controller Jim Ritchey saw that one was pacing a Capital airliner which had just taken off. He cut in his mike and called the captain, a veteran named "Casey" Pierman. Giving Pierman the saucer's position, Ritchey vectored him toward it.
            Until then, the saucer's tracked speed had been about 130 miles an hour. Suddenly, to all the controllers' amazement, its track came to an abrupt end. Where the next blip should have been was only a blank space.
            A moment later Pierman called back.
            "I saw the thing, but it streaked off before I could get close. It climbed out of sight in three to five seconds."
            The controllers stared at each other. Here was the answer to the blip's disappearance. Incredible as it seemed, the saucer had zoomed completely out of their radar beam  
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between sweeps. That meant it had accelerated from 130 miles an hour to almost 500 in about four seconds.
            A few minutes after this, Barnes and the others got a new jolt. One blip track showed an abrupt 90-degree turn —something no plane could do. Then as the sweep came around, another saucer suddenly reversed—its new blip "blossoming" on top of the one it had just made. From over 100 miles an hour, the mystery machine had stopped dead and completely reversed its direction—all in about five seconds.
            On top of this uncanny discovery, a startling report came in from the tower. Operator Joe Zacko had been watching his ASR scope, which was built to track high speeds, when a saucer abruptly appeared on the glass. One look and he knew it was moving at fantastic rate. Fascinated, he watched its blips streak across the screen as the saucer raced over Andrews Field toward Riverdale.
            When the trail suddenly ended, Zacko hastily called Cocklin. Together, they figured the saucer's speed.
            It had been making two miles per second—7,200 miles an hour.
            From the trail it was plain that the saucer had descended vertically into the ASR beam. It had leveled off for a few seconds. Then, climbing at tremendous speed, it had zoomed out of the beam again.
            For some unknown reason, the jets had not arrived. (There were rumors later that another saucer alarm, near New York, had taken all available fighters. Though the Air Force denied this, the delay was not explained.)
            The saucers now had been circling Washington for almost two hours, and controllers' nerves were getting taut. Until tonight, some had laughed off the idea of visitors from other planets. But now they were badly shaken. For the simultaneous radar tracks and visual sightings added up to only one answer.
            Up there in the night some land of super-machines were reconnoitering the capital. From their controlled maneuvers, 
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it was plain they were guided—if not manned—by highly intelligent beings. They might be about to land— the capital would be a logical point for contact. Or they might be about to attack.
            Being cooped up in this windowless room didn't help. The tower men and the airline pilots at least could see the strange machines' lights. Whatever happened, they'd have a few moments' warning. All Barnes and his men could do was track the machines and pray they were not hostile.
            By now Barnes had an eerie feeling that the mysterious visitors were listening to his radio calls. Two or three times saucers darted away the instant he gave pilots directions for interception. Not once did a pilot get close enough to see behind the lights.
            It was almost 3 o'clock when the Air Force jets reached Washington. Just before this, the saucers vanished. Apparently they had sighted the distant fighters or heard them call the Center. Five minutes after the jets left, the queer machines reappeared, swarming all over Washington. One of them, its shape hidden by a large white light, followed a Capital airliner close to the airport, then raced away.
            As the sky began to lighten, the saucers ended their five-hour survey of Washington. But before they left, at least one witness distinctly saw the shape of the elusive machines. At about 5:30 a radio engineer named E. W. Chambers was leaving the WRC transmitter station when he saw five huge discs circling in a loose formation. As he watched, dumfounded, the discs tilted upward and climbed steeply into the sky.
            Fortunately the saucers were gone before most people awoke. As it was, hysteria grew rapidly after the story broke. At first the Air Force tried hard to play down the Washington sightings. For several days officers denied that Andrews Field radar men had tracked the machines. One spokesman insisted the Control Center scope had been defective. Another officer, to prove the incident was  
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unimportant, said that no fighters had been sent to the area. But their attempts to reduce public fear were in vain.
            Telegrams, long-distance calls, letters by the thousands poured into the Pentagon. Congressmen, under pressure from voters, demanded action. Newspapers, syndicates, and radio commentators began to insist on a press conference.
            The demands put Intelligence on the spot. If they admitted the saucers were real, the fat would be in the fire. They would have to tell the country just what the evidence showed. All they could do was refuse to talk, and pray the cycle would end.
            But as new sightings came, the pressure grew. From Texas a weather bureau observer reported a saucer racing by at 1,000 miles an hour. Civil Defense aircraft spotters told the press of circling discs in New Jersey, California, and a dozen other states. Scores of other reports, by private citizens, appeared in local papers and were picked up by the wire services.
            In many cases the secret Intelligence reports backed up the published stories. On the night of July 23 a saucer showing a bluish-green light was seen over Boston. A few minutes later it was picked up by GCI radar. When Ground Control vectored an F-94 pilot toward the saucer, he saw the weird light and locked onto the object with his own radar. But the jet was swiftly outdistanced. In another case Intelligence officers confirmed a series of sightings at West Coast aircraft plants. Engineers at one plant, who watched the discs maneuver, told reporters the saucers were "definitely controlled machines."
            This news story revived fears of a secret Russian weapon, as two or three radio commentators tied it to an article in the London Sunday Graphic.
            According to the Graphic, a 50-foot metallic disc had been seen in a forest clearing near Hasselbach, Germany. Since this was in the Soviet zone, the story implied that it was a Russian machine.
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            The details gave it an authentic sound. Two figures, witnesses said, had climbed into the conning-tower. The outer rim began to glow, then became bright red as the ring rotated. With the tower retracted, the saucer rose straight up, spinning like a top.
            To make it worse, from the Air Force viewpoint, the chief designer of Vickers Aircraft had partly backed the report.
            "If the description is accurate," said the Vickers expert, "it may be a military hovering craft. From the glow, it could house a jet plant to provide vertical take-off. The metallic suits (worn by the two figures) could be protection at high altitudes ... But I'd have to be shown a saucer to believe in it."
            Several American commentators, in repeating this story, left an alarming question in many minds. Were the saucers a Soviet spotting device, now marking key American targets for later attack? Intelligence officers knew it wasn't true, but that didn't help the frightened people who were writing the Pentagon.
            By the morning of July 23, even high Air Force officers were urging Intelligence to hold a press conference and relieve public tension. The Director, Major General John A. Samford, found himself in a hot crossfire. But he knew the dangers of a public discussion and he stubbornly held out.
            When the next two days passed with no highly dramatic reports, Samford and his staff began to breathe easier.
            Then, on the 26th, the dam broke.
            The trouble began at Key West. Early that evening a red-lighted saucer flashed over the Naval Air Station. It was seen by hundreds of people. A destroyer escort hastily put to sea, following the course the machine had taken. Then official silence fell.
            Shortly after this, at 9:08 p.m., a formation of saucers descended on Washington for the second time. Luckily, they were too high to be seen by most people in the city. 
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But as before, jittery controllers at the Center tracked the strange machines. Again, Andrews Field and Washington Airport tower men confirmed the saucers' maneuvers, pin­pointing them simultaneously at spots where lights were seen by airline pilots.
            Oddly enough, the Air Force jets were again delayed in getting to the scene. But this time, when the first fighters arrived, some saucers were still in sight. Flying at top speed, over 600 m.p.h., Lieutenant William L. Patterson tried to chase the nearest machine. But it quickly left him behind.
            Meantime, Air Force Intelligence had gone into action. Major Dewey Fournet, Jr., the Pentagon's top investigator, had been rushed to the Center. With him were Albert M. Chop and an officer specialist on radar. For two hours they watched the saucer blips, Fournet and Chop quizzing Barnes and his men while the radar specialist checked the set.
            Several newsmen, tipped off to the sightings, were waiting when Fournet and the others came out. The three men refused even to speculate on what the saucers might be, but they confirmed Patterson's report on the unsuccessful chase.
            The new Washington story broke with a bang in papers all over the country. Within 48 hours newspaper editors from coast to coast were hammering at the Air Force. One demand for the truth, a typical editorial, came from the Rocky Mountain News in Denver.
            "It is incredible—as well as a terrifying thought—that our Air Force, with all of its facilities, hasn't been able to identify these objects ... If these so-called saucers involve experiments cloaked by military secrecy, it is time to take off that cloak in the interests of national sanity. There are enough real dangers in the world without the unnecessary addition of imaginary ones.
            "On the other hand, if they do not actually know what these objects are, then let there be no more boasting of our  
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scientific and military advances until they do come up with the right answer."
            Even under the furious barrage from within and outside the Pentagon, General Samford still battled against any public discussion. But in the end he had no choice.
            From somewhere higher up, General Samford was given an order. I have reliable evidence that it came from Lieutenant General Nathan Twining, now the Air Force chief of staff. Regardless of the source, Samford was told, in effect: "You will hold a press conference."
            At no time in the five-year saucer scare was any man put in a tougher spot than the Director of Intelligence.
            What could he say? What was safest, the best for the country?
            Without actually saying so, he could let Americans believe the saucers were a secret U. S. device. It was not true, and probably few papers would accept it, after all the denials.
            Even if the public believed it, this could cause a dangerous complacency, and Congress was sure to cut badly needed appropriations. With a superior weapon like the saucers, there would be less need for new long-range bombers and conventional guided missiles.
            So that answer was out.
            There was only one safe step, in the nation's present mood.
            The saucers would have to be debunked.
It was a hard step for General Samford to take. It meant reversing the new, sober approach which Intelligence was making. It was risky, too—this time the public might not believe the Air Force statements.
            But it was the only way to stop the rising tide of fear. 
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CHAPTER V

The Powder Keg


Since 1947, as General Samford knew, the Air Force had frequently tried to debunk the flying saucers. Each time it had been more difficult. How could it be done now, with any hope of success?
            It was impossible to go back to the 1949 statement, which explained away all sightings. For the Air Force was now on record that many were still unsolved. The latest figure, given out by Captain Ruppelt, was 25 per cent; some Intelligence officers privately made it much higher.
            Even admitting that 25 per cent were unsolved was misleading, for it evaded the basic facts. Actually, the Air Force reports showed nearly 500 genuine saucer sightings. The excitement created by these authentic accounts had caused many erroneous reports. But this did not change the basic situation.
            Instead of admitting this, a reverse approach had been used. The implication was plain: If the Air Force could solve 75 per cent of the cases, probably the rest could be explained, with a more scientific analysis.
            Misleading or not, this reverse approach would have to be the foundation for debunking the saucers now. Samford's problem, then, was to explain the remaining 25 per cent. He could say that the saucers were probably some 
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strange phenomena, completely outside our present understanding. Even some Air Force officers, who didn't know the facts, believed this was true. But it ignored the sighting patterns and the proof of definitely controlled maneuvers.
            How many shrewd newsmen would swallow this vague answer after the Washington sightings?
            The high speeds and maneuvers, General Samford knew, had to have a specific answer. What made it harder was the simultaneous visual sightings and radar trackings, especially the accurate pinpointing by the Center and Andrews Field. There had to be some explanation, or the newsmen would be on him like hawks.
            There was one loophole—the temperature-inversion theory publicized by Doctor Menzel.
            Samford and his Intelligence staff already knew the theory. It was based on an effect well known to scientists. Ordinarily, air gets colder as altitude increases, but under certain conditions there may be layers of warm air with cool air underneath.
            Since light rays move slower in a denser medium, they are refracted, or bent, as they pass from cold to warm air. It is this which causes mirages on deserts or on heated roads where motorists seem to see pools of water ahead. Like light, radar waves also move more slowly in a denser medium and are bent in the same way. When a temperature inversion is strong enough, it will cause a refraction effect.
            According to Menzel, observers reporting saucer lights had been misled by reflections, either of ground lights or of the stars, tire moon, or the sun. In the same way he explained radar saucers as ground objects picked up by deflected radar beams, then re-reflected by the inversion layer to show on scopes as strange blips. The apparent high speeds and violent maneuvers, he added, were caused by reflections of moving objects such as cars or trains, or by turbulence in the inversion. In the latter case the agitated 
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air reflected the light or radar waves unevenly, creating false effects of motion even from fixed objects.
            During July several prominent scientists had refused to accept Menzel's claims. But few of the public knew this. Even General Samford, at that time, did not have all the evidence against the astronomer's theory.
            Regardless of its merits, it offered the only out. It did explain a small number of sightings, perhaps two to three per cent. Some Intelligence officers were afraid it might backfire; there was one key fact in the Washington cases which would blow it sky-high. But so far this fact had escaped the press. If no one brought it up, the answer might stick.
            No one in Intelligence, from General Samford on down, wanted to take this step. But after the press conference order, they had no choice.
            It was obvious that General Samford should not face the press alone. He would have to have help, not only in covering technical angles but in handling dangerous questions. With a large group, questions could be passed back and forth to give the Director a breathing spell.
            When the details were worked out, the conference was set for July 29. The group would include several UFO experts from ATIC—Colonel Donald L. Bower, of the Technical Analysis Division, Captain Ed Ruppelt from Project Bluebook, Captain Roy L. James, Mr. B. L. Griffing, and other civilian specialists from the Electronics Branch. To cover the interception angles, Major General Roger M. Ramey, Chief of the Air Defense Command, would be on hand with some of his staff.
            Up to the very last, the Intelligence officers hoped that the conference would be canceled. But the sightings, instead of letting up, were still increasing.
            That very morning Army officers and Indiana state police had watched a weird "dogfight" between several discs over Indianapolis. Three hours later a saucer had scouted the atomic energy plant at Los Alamos, racing off  
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at high speed when Air Force jets went after it. Other Intelligence reports, coming in by teletype, hinted that the 29th would be a peak day in this July saucer cycle.
            By noon the Air Force had still another headache. The night before a story by INS had reported a new Air Force order—if saucers ignored orders to land, pilots were to open fire. At Washington, Frank Edwards had picked up the flash and repeated it on the Mutual network. Telegrams protesting the order were now coming in from all over the country. One, typical of the rest, came from Rob­ert L. Farnsworth, president of the U. S. Rocket Society. Also wiring the White House, Farnsworth gave United Press a copy of his message to help arouse the nation. It read:
            "I respectfully suggest that no offensive action be taken against the objects . . . Should they be extraterrestrial, such action might result in the gravest consequences, as well as alienating us from beings of far superior powers. Friendly contact should be sought as long as possible."
            Under this new barrage General Samford gave up his last-ditch attempt to postpone the conference. By this time no one could have stopped it without a disastrous flare-back. Many people would have suspected some frightening answer too terrible to make public.
            It was nearly 12 o'clock when an Air Force officer phoned me that the conference would be at 4. Thinking it would be sooner, I'd planned to fly to New York at 5, to be ready for radio and television dates on the following day. On the way in, I stopped at the airport, switched my reservation to 7 o'clock, and then drove on to the Pentagon.
            At 3:50 the conference room was half-filled. I recognized C. B. Allen, aviation man for the New York Herald Tribune; Gunnar Back, television commentator; Clay Blair of Life; Doug Larsen of NEA; and a dozen others from big-city papers and national magazines. By 4 o'clock the room was packed with top correspondents, wire-service  
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men, and commentators. I hadn't seen a bigger turnout since the A-bomb story broke.
            Promptly on the minute, General Samford came in, a stockily built man with whimsical blue eyes. His shrewd, pleasant face showed no hint of concern—it was not for nothing that he was Director of Air Force Intelligence.
            Behind Samford came Major General Ramey, a florid-faced, serious-looking officer. Their advisers spread out around the platform—an impressive group of colonels, majors, captains, and civilian specialists. Only Ruppelt came near to matching Samford's unconcerned look. Most of the others were sober-faced, and with good reason.
            For the next hour or so they would be sitting on a powder keg. Two simple questions would light the fuse. All they could do was pray that nobody thought to ask them.
            In his opening remarks, General Samford set a pattern which he used later in answering difficult questions. Normally, Samford is not a verbose man: on occasion he can be as terse as a drill sergeant. But clipped words, short sentences, often give a dramatic effect, and the Director wanted no drama here. A dry, academic approach was the best answer, and Samford did his utmost to set the pattern.
            "I think the plan is to have very brief opening remarks," he said in a slow, unruffled voice, "and then ask for such questions as you may want to put to us for discussion and answer. Insofar as opening remarks are concerned, I just want to state our reason for concern about this.
            "The Air Force feels a very definite obligation to identify and analyze things that happen in the air that may have in them menace to the United States and, because of that feeling of obligation and our pursuit of that interest, since 1947, we have an activity that was known one time as Project Saucer (press name for Project Sign) and now, as part of another more stable and integrated organization, have undertaken to analyze between a thousand and two thousand reports dealing with this area. And out of that  
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mass of reports that we've received we've been able to take things which were originally unidentified and dispose of them to our satisfaction in terms of bulk where we came to the conclusion that these things were either friendly aircraft erroneously recognized or reported, hoaxes—quite a few of those—electronic and meteorological phenomena of one sort or another, light aberrations, and many other things."
            The general's involved sentences could not have been better calculated to ease the tension. Already the saucers seemed a little less real. He went on in the same detached, academic manner.
            "However, there have remained a percentage of the total, in the order of 20 per cent of the reports that have come from credible observers of relatively incredible things. And because of those things not being possible for us to move along and associate with the kind of things that we've found can be associated with the bulk of these reports; we keep on being concerned about them.
            "However, I'd like to say that the difficulty of disposing of these reports is largely based upon the lack of any standard measurement or any ability to measure these things which have been reported briefly by some, more elaborately by others, but with no measuring devices that can convert the thing or idea or the phenomenon into something that becomes manageable as material for the kind of analysis that we know."
            Several reporters looked at each other blankly. The man on my right leaned over to me.
            "If he's trying to befuddle us, he's already got me," he whispered.
            The general went on for two or three minutes.
            "Our real interest in this project is not one of intellectual curiosity, but is in trying to establish and appraise the possibility of a menace to the United States. And we can say, as of now, that there has been no pattern that reveals anything remotely like purpose or remotely like consistency 
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that we can in any way associate with any menace to the United States."
            Here, I knew, Samford was skating on thin ice. Even before I saw all the ATIC evidence, I had enough reports that did show a definite pattern. But it was the general's job to dispel public fear, and admitting a pattern would only have increased it.
            After mentioning reports of strange aerial objects back in biblical times, Samford threw the conference open for questions. In giving the questions and answers here, I have taken them verbatim from the official transcript. It is not a complete account—the conference lasted 80 minutes, and many questions were unimportant. But all the main points are included.
            Since reporters did not identify themselves, the transcript shows queries as merely from "the press." In one or two cases I have identified men whom I recognized.
            General Samford's preliminary remarks had, somehow, lifted the saucers into a distant, shadowy realm. But the first question briskly brought them back to earth. It came from Doug Larsen of NEA.
            "Have there been more than one radar sighting simultaneously?" he asked. "That is, blips from several stations all concentrating on the same area?"
            "You mean in the past?" said Samford.
            "Yes, sir."
            "Yes. That is not an unusual thing to happen to this sequence at all. Phenomenon has passed from one radar to another and with a fair degree of certainty that it was the same phenomenon.. . Now, when we talk about down to the split second, I don't know . . ."
            "Enough to give you a fix so that you can be sure it is right in a certain place?"
            "That is most rare," said the general.
            "Has there been any?" persisted Larsen.
            "Most rare. I don't recall that we have had one that gives us that kind of an effect." 
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            Larsen and many of the others looked baffled, for this very point had been emphasized by the Control Center men. But before Larsen could go on, another man cut in with a safer question on ionized clouds. A minute later a redheaded correspondent down in front tried to pick up where Larsen was stopped.
            "General, have you talked to your Air Intelligence officer who was over at National Airport when they were sighting all these 'bandits' on the CAA screen?"
            "Yes, sir, I have."
            "Have you talked with the Andrews Field people who apparently saw the same thing?"
            "I haven't talked to them myself, but others have."
            "Well, could you give us an account of what they did see and what explanation you might attach to it?"
            This was getting closer, but Samford showed only a good-natured patience.
            "Well, I could discuss possibilities. The radar screen has been picking up things for many years that—well, birds, a flock of ducks. I know there's been one instance in which a flock of ducks was picked up and was intercepted and flown through as being an unidentified phenomenon."
            "Where was that, General?" asked the redheaded man.
            "I don't recall where it was. I think it might have been in Japan."
            In the next five minutes the reporter's question somehow was lost in the shuffle. Then Gunnar Back brought it to light again.
            "General Samford, I understand there were radar experts who saw these sightings Saturday night or early Sunday morning. What was their interpretation of what they saw on the scope?"
            "They said they saw good returns."
            "Which would indicate that these were solid objects similar to aircraft?"
            "No, not necessarily. We get good returns from birds." 
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            "Well, you wouldn't get as large a blip from a bird as—"
            "No, unless it was close."
            "Did they report that these could have been birds?"
            "No," said Samford. (In fact they had flatly denied it, as I learned later.)
            At this point an Associated Press man broke in with a question on temperature inversions. Samford passed it on to Captain James.
            "What sort of ground targets give these reflections?" the AP man asked.
            "It depends on the amount of the temperature inversion and the size and shape of the ground objects," Captain James told him. I could see he was uneasy; this was getting close to one of the key questions.
            "Would this reflection account for the simultaneous radar sightings and visual sightings which appear to coincide on the basis of conversations between the radar operator and the observer outside?"
            "There is some possibility of that," James said cau­tiously.
            "Why would these temperature inversions change location so rapidly or travel?"
            "Well, actually," said James, "it can be the appearance or disappearance of different ground targets, giving the appearance of something moving when, actually, the different objects are standing still."
            "Would these pseudo-blips cause any difficulties in combat?"
            "Not to people that understand what's going on." James hesitated. "They do cause difficulty."
            Shortly after this, another newsman came even closer to the danger point.
            "Captain, was there a temperature inversion in this area last Saturday night?"
            It jarred James; I could see that.
            "There was," he said briefly. 
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            "And the Saturday night proceeding?"
            "I'm not sure—"
            "Did any two sets in this area get a fix on these so-called saucers around here?"
            "The information we have isn't good enough to determine that," evaded James.
            The reporter looked incredulous. "You don't know whether Andrews Field and Washington National Airport actually got a triangulation on anything?"
            "You see," said James, "the records made and kept aren't accurate enough to tie that in that close."
            "What is the possibility of these being other than phenomena?"
            This was too hot a potato for Captain James. General Samford quickly caught it.
            "I'd like to relieve Captain James for just a minute," he said.
            Confirming the query to guided missiles, Samford ruled them out in a long discussion that reduced the saucers to "something” with unlimited power and no mass.
            "You know what no mass means," he added. "There's nothing there."
            For the next ten minutes the questions led into safer fields. By this time I had changed my mind about questioning General Samford. It was obvious this was a deliberate debunking, a carefully worked-out plan to combat hysteria. There might be more reason for hiding the facts than I knew. I decided to wait until after the conference and ask my questions privately.
            After several vain attempts the red-headed man down front finally got back to his original question.
            "You had two experts over there last Saturday night. . . What was their opinion?"
            He had put the query to Captain James, but again General Samford interrupted.
            "May I try to make another answer and ask for support or negation on the quality of the radar operator? I personally 
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don't feel that is necessarily associated with quality of radar operators, because radar operators of great quality are going to be confused by the things which now appear and may appear in a radar ... I think that a description of a GCA landing has some bearing on that in which to get associated with the GCA you have to make a certain number of queries and do a certain number of things and then you become identified through the fact that you obey..."
            This went on for a minute or so, during which the red­headed man began to look a trifle groggy. Then Samford finished.
            "Would you address yourself to what I've just said?" he inquired.
            "Yes," said the redhead. "What do the experts think? That was the question."
            "The experts?" said General Samford.
            "The ones that saw it last Saturday night. What did they report to you?"
            "They said they made good returns."
            The reporter, apparently a bit dizzy from the merry-go-round, gave up and sat down. But another correspondent jumped up.
            "Did they draw any conclusion as to what they were, whether they were clouds?"
            "They made good returns," said General Samford, "and they think they ought to be followed up."
            "But now you come to the general belief that it was either heat inversions or some other phenomena without substance."
            "The phrase 'without substance' bothers me a little," said Samford.
            "Well, could you—" "Say what we think?"
            About 50 of the press, in one voice, shouted: "Yes!"
            General Samford smiled.
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            "I think that the highest probability is that these are phenomena associated with the intellectual and scientific interests that we are on the road to learn more about, but that there is nothing in them that is associated with materials or vehicles or missiles that are directed against the United States."
            "The question whether these are hostile or not makes very little difference," said one reporter. "Are you excluding from consideration a missile, a vehicle, or any other material object that might be flying through the air other than sound or light or some other intangible? Somebody from this planet or some other planet violating our air space?"
            This was the first direct mention of the space visitors answer. Instead of replying directly, the general brought in outside opinions.
"The astronomers are our best advisers, of course, in this business of visitors from elsewhere.          The astronomers photograph the sky continuously perhaps with the most adequate photography in existence, and the complete absence of things which would have to be in their appearance for many days and months to come from somewhere else—it doesn't cause them to have any enthusiasm whatsoever in thinking about this other side of it."
            But this oblique answer did not tell the full story. Perhaps General Samford did not know it, but several astronomers had reported strange objects moving in outer space. On one occasion a distant, unidentified object was observed for two nights by astronomers at the Naval Observatory in Washington. Though they later decided it was probably a freak asteroid, one astronomer told a Washington science editor, before this decision, that a space ship could not be absolutely ruled out. In several other cases astronomers had seen mysterious objects moving across the face of the moon. And I had also heard reports, from two sources I believe reliable, that Palomar and other large observatories had sighted and photographed un­known, 
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controlled devices maneuvering near the earth. According to my informants, these sightings had been kept secret at the request of the Air Force. Even if this particular report was wrong, the others, I knew, were correct.
            One reporter, not satisfied with Samford's answer, tried to pin him down.
            "General, let's make it clear now you are excluding—if you'll affirm that—you are excluding vehicles, missiles, and other tangible objects flying through space, including the subhuman bodies from other planets."
            "In my mind, yes," said the general.
            The man on my right leaned over to me.
            "Why 'subhuman?' They'd have to be superhuman to be that far ahead of us. And I noticed Samford didn't make that an official answer."
            A few moments later one of the press brought Samford back to the subject of simultaneous radar tracking. It was a touchy point. If the general admitted the triangulation, by absolutely simultaneous radar bearings, it would wreck the Menzel answer, as several scientists had already told ATIC. But this time he had a determined opponent.
            "General, you said there'd never been a simultaneous radar fix on one of these things."
            "I don't think I wanted to say that," replied Samford.
            "You didn't mean to say it?"
            "I meant to say that when you talk about simultaneously, somebody will say, 'Was it on 1203 hours 24 ½  seconds?' and I don't know."
            "Well," said the reporter, "I'd like to point out this fact. The officer in charge of the radar station at Andrews Field told me that on the morning of July 20, which was a week from last Saturday, he picked up an object three miles north of Riverdale. He was in intercom communication with CAA and they exchanged information. The CAA also had a blip three miles north of Riverdale and on both radars the same blip remained for 30 seconds and simultaneously disappeared from both sets—" 
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            "Well, their definition of simultaneous, yes," said Samford. "But some people won't be satisfied that that is simultaneously."
            "It is pretty damned simultaneous for all purposes," the reporter said firmly.
            But the general refused to be trapped.
            "Well, I'm talking about the split-second people . . . they'll say your observations are delayed by half a second, therefore you can't say it was simultaneous."
            Outmaneuvered, the reporter turned to Captain James.
            "Does your inversion theory explain away that situation?"
            "It possibly could, yes," James said warily.
            "It possibly could, but could it?"
            "We don't have the details."
            "Is there any reason why it couldn't?" the reporter de­manded.
            James squirmed, looked at Samford, apparently in the hope of being taken off the hook.
            "General," the reporter said tardy, "can we get this clarified?"
            For the first time Samford ducked the issue.
            "I'm trying to let this gentleman ask a question—" he looked down at the front row. "Excuse me."
            For the next 15 minutes Samford and his advisers had an easier time. One reporter, quizzing Ruppelt, tried unsuccessfully to make him admit a concentration of sightings at atomic energy plants. Mr. Griffing and Colonel Bower, discussing the refraction-grid cameras, Schmidt telescopes, and plans for more scientific investigations, managed to avoid any pitfalls. So did General Ramey, when he explained a few of the interception details. Then one reporter, who'd tried for ten minutes to get the floor, tossed in a hot question.
            "General, suppose some super intelligent creature had come up with a solution to the theoretical problem of levitation. 
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Would that not be mass-less in our observations, either by radar or by sight—no gravity?"
            "Well, I don't know whether I can give any answer to that," said General Samford. "We believe most of this can be understood gradually by the human mind."
            The reporter, balked, sat down. But later he tried another angle.
            "General, did you notice in all of your, say, 20 per cent of the unexplainable reports, a consistency as to color, size, or speed—estimated speed?"
            "None whatsoever," said Samford.
            Like a chorus in Pinafore, several correspondents exclaimed in unison:
            "None whatsoever?"
            I almost expected Samford to come out with, "Well, hardly ever." Instead, he said very firmly, "No."
            It would have been folly to admit that such patterns were known; it would immediately have nullified everything Samford had said. But such groupings did exist; even the Project report in 1949 had listed two distinct types and certain frequency periods. However, General Samford was not Director of Intelligence at that time, and he may not have known of this analysis.
            By now the conference had run well over an hour. Some of the reporters were anxious to close it and get their stories filed. But one man made a last stubborn try to crack the simultaneous sighting angle.
            "General, how do you explain this case? . . . The Senior Controller said whenever one of the unidentified blips appeared anywhere near Pierman's plane he would call Pierman and say, 'You have traffic at two o'clock about three miles,' and Pierman would look and say, 'I see the light.' This was done not once but three times. And then this past Saturday night Bames vectored at least a half a dozen airline pilots in to these things . . ."
            "I can't explain that," said Samford. 
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            The reporter looked amazed; he had obviously been expecting another evasion.
            "Well, how do you explain ... is that auto-suggestion or—"
            "I can't explain it at all," admitted the general. But a moment later, after a comment on mesmerism and mind reading, he compared it with spiritualism. "For many years, the field of spiritualism had these same things in which completely competent creditable observers reported incredible things. I don't mean to say this is that sort of thing, but it's an explanation of our inability to explain."
            Near the last, a correspondent asked him if the Air Force was withholding facts. The general replied that only the names of sighting witnesses were withheld.
            "How about your interpretation of what they reported?" the newsman said bluntly.
            Perhaps Samford's guard was down; it had been a trying 80 minutes, and he looked tired.
            "We're trying to say as much as we can on that today and admit the barrier of understanding on all of this is not one that we break."
            Knowing the service phrase "break security," I was sure this was what he meant. Later several service friends of mine agreed. But evidently none of the press took it that way, for no one followed it up.
            As the conference broke up, I heard some of the newsmen's comments.
            "Never heard so much and learned so little," one man said acidly. His companion shrugged.
            "What did you expect? Even if they know the answer, they wouldn't give it out now, with all this hysteria."
            Pushing through the crowd toward General Samford, I heard a press photographer jeering at a reporter.
            "OK, wise guy, I told you there wasn't anything to the saucers."
            "You're nuts," snapped the reporter. "Didn't you notice  
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the way Samford kept sliding around hot questions—and the way he kept taking Captain James off the spot?"
            "I think you're wrong," said another newsman. "I believe it was on the level."
            When the group around Samford thinned out, I asked him the two questions I'd had in mind.
            "How big an inversion, General—how many degrees is necessary to produce the effects at Washington Airport, assuming they're possible at all?"
            He looked at me with no change in expression. I would not want to play poker with the general.
            "Why, I don't know exactly," he said. "But there was an inversion."
            "Do you know how many degrees, on either night?"
            "Excuse me, General," someone broke in sharply. I turned around and saw Dewitt Searles, now a lieutenant colonel, eying me suspiciously.
            "You still on this saucer business?" he said. Without waiting for an answer—I had the feeling he had merely wanted to cut off my questions—he turned back to Samford. "Any time you're ready, sir; the newsreel men are waiting."
            On the way out, I stopped to talk with Captain Ed Ruppelt, a broad-shouldered young officer with a disarming grin. I knew he came from Iowa, like myself. After I introduced myself, he told me he'd read some of my stories.
            "I don't mean the saucer book. I did read that—in self-defense, in case I ever ran into you. But I mean those aviation yams, when you were writing fiction."
            With a start like that, I hated to spring the two questions on him, but I did. Ruppelt looked at me thoughtfully.
            "You were talking with General Samford. What did he say?"
            "He didn't," I said. "Never mind, I can see you're on the spot."
            We talked a little longer, on safer subjects, then I went out to my car and drove to the airport.
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            As the airliner droned north, I thought over the high points of the press conference. I was positive now it had been a cover-up, forced on the Air Intelligence men by the July crisis. Obviously they had acted for the good of the country, and I suddenly realized what an ordeal it must have been.
            But all of this could have been avoided if the Air Force, back in the earlier stages, had taken the American people into its confidence. During a lull in sightings, Intelligence could have made a frank statement, perhaps like this:
            "Evidence shows that the saucers are real, that they are some kind of revolutionary machines. There is no sign that they are dangerous or hostile. We don't know where they come from, but we are certain they do not come from Russia or any other nation on earth. It seems likely they come from another planet and are making a friendly survey of the earth before attempting contact."
            Or, to reduce the impact, the Air Force could merely have said that this was a fair possibility.
            It would have caused some alarm. But gradually Americans would have accepted the facts, even the possibility of a saucer attack—just as we now have accepted the danger of A-bomb attack.
            Such a step would have ended all ridicule. Scientists would have felt less squeamish about aiding Project Sign, and Congress would have granted funds for an all-out investigation. Instead, secrecy had built up the mystery, and with it public fear.
            When I reached New York, I checked in at the Commodore and then waited for the early editions. By this time presses all over the country were beginning to grind out the conference story. Ironically, even as the presses roared, Air Force jet pilots were chasing saucers over two Midwest states. One case, if it had been made public that night would have ruined the inversion answer and wrecked the debunking plan. But I didn't learn this until weeks later. 
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            Just before midnight, I saw the New York early editions. The Times piece, by Austin Stevens, carried a front-page two-column headline: 
Air Force Debunks Saucers As Just Natural Phenomena 
            The Herald Tribune story, by C. B. Allen, followed the same line.
            Next day, I called Washington. Neither the Post nor the Star had questioned the Air Force answers. The Post story-was headlined: 
                        Saucer Blips Over Capital Laid To Heat 
            The Associated Press account was in the same vein. Though the Washington News and some other papers had hedged, it was clear that General Samford and his staff had put it over. And in an item from Harvard, Dr. Menzel assured the country that the saucers would disappear when the heat spell was over.
            After all this, I wasn't too happy about my talks on television and radio. Perhaps I shouldn't be trying to knock down the Air Force defense. Though I'd tried to get all the angles in the last three years, there might be a serious one I didn't know—something that justified the Air Force debunking.
            It was too late to cancel the programs. They had been set for a week, beginning with Bill Slater's "Luncheon at Sardi's" and going on up until late at night. But when they were over, I came to a decision.
            When I got back, I would put it up squarely to the Air Force. If they convinced me, I would keep still from then on.

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