Exodus from Space
The big question—the purpose of the saucer survey—was still unanswered. It was likely to remain a mystery until our unknown visitors chose to reveal it. But in a few days everybody would be clamoring for the most probable answer. What could they be told?
1. As a start I put down two suggestions that had been published since '47.
The unknown planet race—perhaps more than one-may fear an eventual invasion when we achieve space travel. Our success with atomic weapons may have increased this fear, and our high-altitude rocket tests would indicate that we are not far from journeys in space. This is one possibility suggested by Project Sign.
2. The spacemen may fear the effect of more powerful atomic explosions, especially if this race comes from a solar-system planet. Several atomic scientists have said that simultaneous H-bomb explosions might speed up the earth's rotation or even change its orbit. One of these was Dr. Paul Elliott, a nuclear physicist who worked on the first A bomb. Others have said that a mass explosion of H bombs might tear a large chunk out of the earth, or that a violent chain reaction might even destroy our planet.
Any of these effects, particularly destruction of the
earth, might have serious results—or at least unpleasant reactions—on Mars, Venus, and other solar-system planets. According to some astronomers, including Dr. George Gamow of George Washington University, the earth's ice ages were caused by certain unknown changes on Saturn and Jupiter. A violent explosion which altered or destroyed the earth might have even more disastrous results. If some other solar-planet race knew this danger from its own atomic discoveries, it would have good reason for alarm.
Using other suggestions I'd heard and ideas of my own, I added the following alternate motives:
3. If the unknown race uses atomic energy, it may be exhausting its supply of uranium. In this case our A-bomb explosions would reveal a new source of supply. This would explain the saucers' interest in our atomic plants and uranium mines. It would be simple for remote-control units to locate uranium deposits—our own Geological Survey has developed Geiger counters for planes used in such searches. It would also explain the saucers' concentration on the United States, the most advanced nation in this field.
4. The saucer race may intend to invade us as part of a program to conquer inhabited planets.
5. They may have some unknown plan for the earth beside plain conquest.
6. Our planet may not be considered a menace, and it may not hold any material interest leading to an invasion. The surveillance then could be for one of two reasons:
A. To survey the earth with the intention of contact, once the saucer race has convinced us of its peaceful intentions and is sure we will not attack them.
B. To catalogue the earth as just another inhabited planet, with no plans for immediate contact. The survey might then subside into a periodic check until we seemed far enough advanced for acceptance, unless meantime we developed into a threat to space nations.
There was one factor which might have an important
bearing. For almost 200 years before the 1947 sightings, strange objects and lights had been reported all over the world. Many of the stories were undoubtedly old wives' tales. But a few reports, by astronomers, sea captains, and various reputable observers, sounded remarkably like the present sightings.
This was especially true of the sightings within the last 80 years. On September 26, 1870, the London Times reported a strange elliptical object which was seen to cross the face of the moon. A year later, on August 1, 1871, citizens of Marseilles, France, sighted a large, round device moving slowly across the sky, apparently at a very high altitude. At Kattenau, Germany, on March 22, 1880, several bright, luminous objects were sighted just before dawn, moving westward as they climbed. (This report was published in the British Nature magazine, Vol. 22, p. 64.)
In 1885 the Bermuda Royal Gazette described a mysterious round object which had flown over the islands, and that same year, on November 1, an astronomer and other witnesses reported sighting a huge, round machine over Adrianople, Turkey.
On March 19, 1887, two unknown aerial objects were reported to have fallen into the sea near a Dutch barkentine. According to Captain C. D. Sweet, one object was dark, the other luminous. He was positive they were not meteors.
About a year after this an oval-shaped disc was reported over New Zealand, speeding at a high altitude. And in 1890 several large aerial objects were sighted over the Dutch East Indies. Similar devices were later seen over England and Scotland. One report, which came from a British admiral, described a large disc with a projection like a tail.
Since there were no airplanes or dirigibles at this time, it is difficult to explain away the sightings, unless they are all termed hallucinations.
During this period there were similar sightings in the United States. One typical disc report came from Denison, Texas, where the observer compared the device with a large saucer. The story was carried in the Denison Daily News, January 25, 1878.
In 1897 a strange aerial machine with red, green, and white lights was sighted by astronomers and thousands of Americans in several Midwest states. Newspaper accounts were published in Chicago and many other cities.
On February 24, 1904, a mysterious "flying light" was seen above the Atlantic by crew members of the USS Supply. The report, attested by Lieutenant Frank H. Schofield, U.S.N., described the object as moving with great speed, apparently at a high altitude. (A detailed account appears in the March, 1904, issue of Weather Review, an official publication of the U.S. Weather Bureau.)
Another sighting listed in the Weather Review, in 1907, occurred near Burlington, Vermont, where a weird torpedo-shaped machine was reported as circling the area. During this sighting a round, glowing object fell from the machine, exploding before it reached the ground. Still another Weather Review report described a peculiar shadow seen on some clouds at Forth Worth, April 8, 1913. The shadow appeared to be caused by a large machine hovering above the cloud layer. As the clouds moved, the shadow remained in the same position. Then it suddenly diminished in size, as if the machine had risen vertically, and quickly disappeared.
If these reports were to be believed, I could see only one conclusion—that the earth had been observed periodically, in a systematic patrol of inhabited planets, but until recently had not been of great interest to advanced races.
The present sightings, then, might be only a new phase of a long surveillance, though they could be observations
by some planet race which had discovered the earth in the last few years. It was even possible that both answers were right—there might be more than one race involved in the saucer survey.
If it was an entirely new operation, it wasn't hard to see how the unknown race had discovered the earth. Though it could have been an accident, during a space exploration, there was a more likely explanation.
For some years now, our radar and high-frequency radio messages had been traveling through space. Radio astronomers on some other planet undoubtedly must have heard them and set about deciphering the messages. Even if they hadn't learned their meaning, the unknown race would know they were intelligent symbols, coming from another world. Monitoring the wave lengths, locating their source, and following the signals to the earth would be a simple matter for a race that had conquered space travel . . .
That evening, after dinner, I was trying to decide the most likely motive when Jim Riordan called me.
"I'm in Alexandria," he said. "Been looking at one of the Hunting Towers apartments. If you're not busy, I thought I might grab a bus and come out—I'd like to hear what Smith had to say."
I looked at the clock.
"There's no bus for an hour—I’ll run in and pick you up."
"All right," said Riordan. "I’ll be in the lobby of the George Mason Hotel. In fact we might as well talk here. It'll be easier for me to get a bus back to Washington."
It was only a few minutes' drive into Alexandria. I went into the hotel and found Riordan smoking his pipe, watching the lobby television set. We sat down in a corner and I gave him the main points of my talk with Smith. Then I told him about the Utah pictures.
"They're going to make that public?" Riordan said incredulously.
"In about a week."
"It’ll raise hell—people should have been gradually prepared."
"They've heard the idea for five years."
"The idea—yes. But how many have really figured out the angles? That piece in Gusto was right—nobody's ready for it"
"I didn't see that," I said.
"It's a pocket mag—they had an article called 'When the Saucers Land.' The guy who wrote it asked Civil Defense, the Red Cross, the Civil Air Patrol, and a lot of other outfits what they'd do if saucers suddenly landed. He certainly caught them with their pants down. Civil Defense and the CAP said they didn't know. The Red Cross said it would send out an alert. The mayor—it was Los Angeles, I think—said they didn't have any plan."
"You've got something, Jim. A sudden landing could cause trouble."
"Some retired Navy commander got all steamed up about it," said Riordan. "He fired letters at the White House, the Defense Department, even the FBI, blasting the Air Force for not preparing people."
"It's easy to take cracks at the Air Force—I ought to know. But since July I've seen the spot they're in. If I'd been in Samford's shoes then, I'd have done just what he did."
"I guess I would, too. But that debunking's going to make it tougher now, when they throw this Utah thing at the public. And they'll just have to tell people what they think's behind the saucer survey."
"Unless they're holding back on me, all they could do would be to give out the possible answers."
Riordan read over the list I'd written.
"That last part is just wishful thinking," he said grimly. "If it's only a general survey, why the green missiles and the red-spray bombs?"
"I’ll admit they're prepared for an attack. But I think
it's only if we don't listen to reason—probably about A-bomb explosions."
"And that's your 'out'?" demanded Riordan.
"I know it sounds pretty thin. But you can't ignore the time element—four years since those tests and no attack. Take Smith's 'lost civilization' idea. Suppose we discovered a lost race like that today. You think the United Nations-even Russia—would go down there hell-bent on wiping them out?"
"Well—no. We'd check on them first."
"And it might take a long time to figure them out. If it looked as if they were getting set for A bombs and jet bombers, we'd do something—but we'd give them a chance first. Meantime we might try out a few guided missiles where nobody'd get hurt—maybe as a warning or even a ranging test if they didn't accept our offers."
"It could be the truth," Riordan said thoughtfully. "If you're right, it's up to us whether the saucers attack or not. I'm still not sold—but it's possible."
He glanced at his watch, stood up. As we went outside the hotel, Riordan looked up into the night.
"It's a queer feeling, knowing they're up there watching everything we do—and deciding whether they'll let us live or not"
"If my hunch is right, Jim, it'll be up to us."
Riordan slowly nodded.
"Maybe it will I hope to God you're right."
It was two days before I heard from the Pentagon. Then one morning an Air Force PIO phoned me.
"Al told me to give you a message—he had to rush off to a meeting. He said to ask you to come in around 2 o'clock. He's got something to show you."
When I saw Al, I noticed he had a worried look.
"What's happened?" I said.
"There's been a spurt in sightings. Only a few have gotten into the papers, but we've had 42 military reports alone, the first 17 days of February. I've got a few here for
you." He was silent for a moment, tapping his fingers on the desk. "It's not good, Don. If it keeps on, there may be a lot of public reports. We might have the July trouble all over again."
"I can guess the rest," I said. "They're backing down on the Utah film showing."
"Nobody's backing down," Al retorted. "Anyway, not the ones who think it should be made public. But it wasn't the Utah business I wanted to see you about."
Reaching into a desk drawer, he brought out a manila folder. As he opened it, I saw several typed pages.
"This script," he said carefully, "has been approved for publication—on one condition. I’ll tell you what it is after yon read it."
He handed me the pages and I looked at the title:
Planet Earth—Host to
I stared at Al, then read the beginning. The key paragraphs repeated a statement which several scientists had made: In some far-off future, when the earth cools or our sun expands, Man's only chance for survival will be escape to another planet. This situation, the script went on, can be expected on any inhabited planet.
Then one line seemed to leap from the page:
"Granted that super-intelligents in another solar system are looking for a suitable planet for a second home, why would earth be singled out . . .?"
I looked at Al in amazement.
"This is dynamite. You mean the Air Force wants this made public?"
"It's not an official statement," he said quickly.
"Then what is it?"
"It's one person's opinion—a man named W. C. Odell."
"Not Colonel Odell, in Intelligence?"
"Well—yes. But his Air Force connection can't be used on the by-line."
"You'll never keep it secret, if this gets into print. The boys in the press room are sure to dig it up. When that hits the wires, it'll raise holy hell."
"The Air Force would say it was simply one man's opinion."
"But an Intelligence colonel! Why take the risk—now of all times?"
"Odell has the right to express a personal opinion, if it doesn't violate security."
"For Heaven's sake, Al! You know what this means. If this invasion idea gets out after you show the Utah film—"
"It won't be published then. No magazine could get it on the stands that soon."
"You think they'd sit on it that long? The minute the Utah story breaks, they'd resell it to a wire service, with joint credit."
Al was silent.
"You want me to show this to True—is that it?"
"Yes, or any other magazine you write for. But make it clear that Odells Air Force rank can't be used."
"Look, AL I've got to know what's back of this. Does the Air Force want it out as one of the possible answers?"
Al shook his head. "I told you it was just one man's idea. Security Review passed it. That's all I know."
He put the script in an envelope, along with the February cases he'd cleared.
"Show it to your editors, and let me know their reaction as soon as you can."
I went out, still astonished. Even if Al were telling the truth, it was incredible that Colonel Odell’s suggestion should be made public now. On the face of it, the Air Force was throwing caution to the winds. But knowing the fight against even the film showing, I couldn't believe it. There must be some other answer.
Stopping under a corridor fight, I read over the entire script. It was quietly written, the invasion suggestions sandwiched between discussions of space travel and astronomy.
There was no hint of a violent occupation of the earth. But nothing could reduce the impact of Odell's suggestion.
If he were right, unknown beings from a dying planet were considering the earth as a possible haven—a new home in which to perpetuate their race. Possibly, as Odell said, the long survey would prove our world was not suitable. Otherwise, Planet Earth might become—willingly or not—a "host to extraterrestrial life."
I went into a phone booth to call True. Then I realized that the editors would want to see the script and talk over all the angles. Calling the airport, I made a reservation on a 5 o'clock flight, then I drove home to get an overnight bag. Before I left, I phoned Riordan's hotel. Jim was out, but I left a message for him to meet me, if he could, at the airport. Maybe he'd have some idea of why the script had been cleared.
On the way to the airport, I thought over Odell's suggestion. The mass migration idea wasn't new—it had been used in dozens of stories and plays. But I'd never taken it seriously; moving any large number of people from a distant planet seemed impossible.
Of course it could be done gradually, over a period of years. Even then, the problems seemed enormous, though they might not be barriers to a race which had long ago mastered space travel.
How would Man, in some far-distant age, go about migrating to another planet?
It would depend, first, on the fate they faced on earth. There were two theories as to how the earth would die. According to the first, it would slowly cool, then become frigidly cold like Jupiter and Pluto. The opposite theory held that the earth will get unbearably hot and finally bum up. One scientist holding this belief is Dr. George Gamow, author of One-Two-Three—Infinity! and professor of theoretical physics at George Washington University. In Gamow's opinion the sun is producing more energy and
constantly expanding: at the last, our globe will be destroyed in a tremendous explosion.
During the first stages of cooling or heating, our descendants might escape surface temperatures by building underground, air-conditioned cities, surviving on chemically produced foods. (This was the Project Sign suggestion regarding a possible race on Mars.) If the earth were cooling and not threatened by an expanding sun, the human race might exist indefinitely underground. But if there were a better alternative, the chance of a normal, outdoor life on another planet, some earthlings at least would undoubtedly try it.
In that far-distant time, Man will certainly have mastered interstellar flight. Long before the earth becomes unbearably hot or cold; our descendants would begin to look for a new home in the universe.
Since no solar-system planet has a climate like the earths, the nearest star system would be explored first. Perhaps a twin of the earth will be found; if not, the explorers would search farther.
During a long exploration more than one earth "twin" might be found. If the nearest one were inhabited, our descendants might choose a more distant planet, especially if the planet race were strong enough to resist invasion.
Once Earth II was selected, bases would be set up and an occupation force gradually brought in. On a planet similar to this, evolution probably would have produced fish and fowl, also animals which the colonists could domesticate. If not, small numbers could be brought to start such life. Fields would be cleared and earth-type crops planted.
Even with giant space ships, moving most of the earth's population would be impossible. At first, probably, migration would be limited to technicians, builders, defense forces, and their families. It might take hundreds of years for Earth II to be fully occupied. Migration might be voluntary, but probably it would be restricted to younger
age-groups—except for key scientists and various experts.
What would happen to the hundreds of millions necessarily left on earth? It would be impossible to move all of them underground. Perhaps some plan for gradual depopulation could be used—birth control enforced by sterilization. In this case, long before the earth freezes, or begins to roast under a blazing sun; it will in truth become a dead planet, abandoned to its fate.
Fantastic as it sounded, this could well be the method of migration to an uninhabited planet.
But if the selected planet were inhabited, a different plan would have to be used. The choice of such a planet might be forced on the earthlings; it might be the only one on which they could survive. Or it could be a cynically deliberate choice—the homes, industries, farms, and mineral supplies of the planet race might offer short cuts to colonization.
Either way, the fate of the planets' inhabitants would depend on the character of future Man. By then, a wiser human race may have outlawed war, or they may have degenerated into scientific barbarians.
If our descendants were peaceful, they could suggest a friendly coexistence to the planet race: the earth's scientific advances might be held out as an inducement. But if future Man is a cruel materialist, he would take one of two steps:
First, he could destroy the inhabitants and take over their civilization. Second, he could conquer them, then use the captive race for forced labor.
Even if the earthlings desired a peaceful occupation, it might not succeed. A race too weak to resist would be no problem, but an advanced race might fight. If the planet were the only possible choice for Earth II, our descendants would probably use force if reason failed. Once in control, they might persuade the inhabitants to cooperate in exchange for their freedom.
It is possible that the earthlings would discover a highly
superior race, forcing them to renew their search for a second home. If none were found they might, in desperation, stage a sudden attack with their most deadly weapons, hoping surprise would overcome the inhabitants' defenses. Should this fail, then underground life on earth would be Man's last hope . . .
To the world of '53, I knew the fate of future Man would be of little interest. But Colonel Odell’s suggestion brought the exodus idea grimly down to the present. His explanation might be mere speculation, without a shred of evidence. But somewhere in the universe there were bound to be planets far older than ours. If such an aging planet were inhabited, its race—providing they traveled in space—would certainly search for a twin to their dying world.
And that twin could be the earth.
The Hidden Report
When I went into the airport terminal, there was no sign of Riordan. He came in a few minutes later, as I was leaving the American Airlines counter. We went up to the deserted mezzanine and I told him about Colonel Odell’s migration answer.
"Good Lord!" said Riordan. "Does the Air Force really believe that?"
"I don't think so, but I'm puzzled at their letting Odell say it."
Riordan skipped through the typescript, pausing at the key points.
"It's fantastic," he muttered. "If an Intelligence colonel hadn't written it—" he stopped. "There's one sure thing. If any other race tried to muscle in here, there'd be one hell of a fight."
"It would depend on their weapons—"
'We'd fight, anyway," grated Riordan. "I can't see Americans—or the rest of the world, either—letting themselves be pushed off onto reservations like the Indians. They'd have to finish us off before they could settle here."
"I still think one of the other answers is more likely. But even if it's true, it doesn't mean they've definitely decided on the earth. They may be considering some other planet.
They might have trouble with our atmosphere; if they find they can't adjust to it, they may give up. There could be a dozen reasons why they'd have trouble settling here."
Riordan stared down at the crowded waiting room.
"It could explain the long check-up—maybe why they haven't tried to contact us. But somehow I just can't believe it. You don't take it seriously, do you?"
"I'd have to see some evidence first. Of course, this might fit Mars, if Lowell was right about its being a dying planet. The Martians may have developed space travel in the hope of saving the race. It's a possible answer, but even if they did select the earth, it might be years before they'd be able to start migration."
"And if they tried it on a small scale, we could handle them. Also, we might have space ships by then, maybe new weapons to hit them with. Of course, if the earth was their only chance, they might rush things." Riordan stopped, made a wry face. "Damn it, I still say it's fantastic-Intelligence colonel or not."
The loud-speakers broke in, announcing my plane's departure. Riordan went down to the gate with me.
"The thing that bothers me," I said, "is the Air Force clearing the script."
"Maybe it was a fluke," said Riordan. "Could be it was passed by some Review officer who doesn't believe in the saucers, so he thought it wasn't important. He could've figured that taking off the colonel's rank was enough to protect the Air Force."
"He'd have to be pretty dumb not to see what could happen."
"Sure, but that could explain its getting cleared. It's still a hellish idea." Riordan gave me a crooked grin. "Even though I don't believe it, I wish I hadn't heard it."
As the Convair roared off the runway, I glanced at some of the passengers, trying to imagine how they would take Odell's suggestion. Judging from Riordan's reaction, most of them would shrug it off as some scare-writer's brainstorm.
What difference it would make if they knew his Air Force background, I could only guess. Some might call it pure fantasy; Riordan had at first, and he'd seen all the saucer evidence. Even so, releasing the story now seemed to me a curious action.
The airliner droned past Baltimore, and I looked down at the sprawling city. Would this and other great American cities be coveted by that unknown space race? Would they offer the homes, industries, food these mysterious beings required? Or would their needs be totally different? Even if they closely resembled us in form, they might have developed a civilization so strange that ours would be utterly useless to them . . .
That night at my hotel I read the reports Al had cleared. Only one of them added any new angle. On February 6, near Rosalia, Washington, a saucer had circled a B-36 bomber. During this maneuver the pilot saw a white light blink at two-second intervals. Before he had time to blink his own lights in answer, the machine swiftly turned south and disappeared.
The other reports followed the usual pattern. On the night of February 1 an Air Force jet pilot had spotted several glowing saucers near Terre Haute, Indiana. Later he saw the same group, or a similar one, as he came into St. Louis. Three days later a Weather Bureau observer at Yuma had tracked two discs with his theodolite. On February 11 there had been two widely separated sightings. One disc had paced an Air Force C-119 en route from Tunis to Tripoli. The other had led a Marine Corps jet pilot a wild chase over Virginia.
The last ATIC report was dated February 13, when three discs, in echelon formation, had maneuvered near Carlstrom Field, Texas. During the visual sighting the UFO blips had been picked up by a B-36 radar man.
I put the reports away. Possibly the rest of the 42 cases held clues to the meaning of this new cycle. There were none in these six, unless the blinking light had been some kind of signal.
Next morning I took Odell's script over to True. Ken Purdy was out of town, so I showed it to John DuBarry.
"It's a startling idea," he said. "But I'm afraid of it, the way they've released it. Without Odell's rank, we'd be accused of printing a scare story by some wild-eyed author. And frankly I don't understand the setup. What's going on down there?"
I told him about the battle over the Utah film and the new spurt in sightings.
"This thing must be driving them crazy," DuBarry said. "Clearing this Odell story baffles me, and it could have been a slip-up. Anyway, even if the Air Force asked us to run it, with Odell's rank and Intelligence connection, things are moving too fast. Before we could get it into print, the Utah film showing will break the whole business wide open."
"That's about how I figured it, but Chop asked me to find out."
After what DuBarry had said, I decided not to show the script to any other editors. There was too much mystery about it.
For two days after my return from New York, I heard nothing from the Pentagon. Finally I called Chop, but a PIO told me he was in a conference. I left word for him to call, and a little later the phone rang. But instead of Al, it was Henry Brennard, the man who had tipped me off to the Utah pictures.
"Did you hear about yesterday's blow-up over the saucers?"
"No," I said, "what happened?"
"There's been a rush of new sightings—"
"I know that. Chop told me."
"Well, most of them have been kept quiet. Then one hit the papers—a huge disc over Lake Erie. It's worried some of the Pentagon crowd. They're afraid it's the beginning of another scare like the one last summer. Then on top of it an Intelligence colonel got an article cleared—"
"You mean the Odell piece? They let me see it."
"That set off another row," said Brennard. "Some of the Air Force people are sore that Review passed it. They're afraid now that it might be tied up with that AP story from the International Medical Conference."
"I missed that," I said. "What was it?"
"It said they were on the track of a way to prolong life so people would live indefinitely—hundreds of years, anyway. The AP had a statement by Colonel J. E. Ash—he used to be head of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology. He said the earth would be so crowded we'd have to start colonies on other planets."
"Oh-oh," I said.
"Yes—it's bad. If Odell’s piece gets published, some smart newspaperman would be sure to remember what Ash said and tie the two together. It's another argument for slamming the lid down on saucer stuff."
"You mean they've done that?"
"No, but the Central Intelligence Agency recommended it," said Brennard. "At least that's what I heard."
"How did the CIA get into this?" I asked.
"The Air Force gave some of their top men a secret briefing. The CIA people advised them to put out a new report, debunking the saucers the way they did in '49— tell the public the project was ended, and then carry it on underground. It'd probably be top secret."
"They'd never get away with it—not with all they've let out now."
"I don't think they'll even try. Some of the Intelligence boys were mad as the devil at CIA for even suggesting it. Well, that's the picture. I thought you'd like to know—it's turned into a knockdown fight."
I had barely put down the phone when it rang again. This time it was Al.
"I've resigned," he said bluntly. "You'd better come in and meet my relief."
"What the devil happened?" I exclaimed.
"This hasn't anything to do with the saucers," Al said quickly.
"Look, I heard there was a big row over the Utah film—" "I don't want to talk about that now," Al broke in. "Come out to my place tonight and I’ll tell you what I can."
Then he hung up.
When I saw Al that night, he told me that two Air Force groups were deadlocked over the secret film.
"But I'd resigned before that," he said. "I'm going out to California—I've been wanting to get into private industry."
He could see I didn't believe him.
"It's the truth," he insisted. "I might have put it off a while—they wanted me to stay on. But the way this thing's worked out, I'm glad I'm going."
"How does the Utah deal stand now?"
"They're arguing over the statement." Al gave me a mirthless smile. "One group wants to say the objects might have been balloons or light reflections from gulls' wings."
"You're kidding!" I said incredulously.
Al shook his head.
"But the analysis!" I said. "Those speeds and maneuvers proved the things couldn't be birds or balloons—or even jets. Both ATIC and the Navy agreed on that"
"Yes—but the statement doesn't have to go into that."
I stared at him.
"You mean all the analysis conclusions would be left out?"
"It's not decided yet," Al said evasively. "They—some of the people—are talking about running other pictures along with the Utah film."
"Pictures of what?"
"Balloons and gulls. You know, with the sun reflecting from them."
"You call that a fair deal?" I demanded.
Al's face got a little red.
"It's not my suggestion—don't get mad at me." Then he
added, soberly, "And don't get the idea that the officers who suggested it are just trying to fool the public. They honestly think they're right—that it's better to keep the thing quiet and not stir up people."
"It's a dangerous gamble, Al. If something happened suddenly and nobody was prepared—"
He nodded. "I know. But it isn't settled—we may win yet.
"You're still in on the fight?" I said, surprised.
"Yes, my resignation doesn't take effect for a few days." Al squashed out his cigarette. "There's one thing they've lost sight of, in all these arguments. The country's top newspapermen and commentators will be invited to that showing. They're no fools—they're bound to see through a setup like that."
I thought it over a moment.
"You're dead right. They'll want to know why the big build-up over nothing."
"Absolutely. They'll want to know why we've got them in for this special showing, if the Utah film is just pictures of balloons or birds. The film was shot in July, and they’ll ask what we've been doing with it all this time. Even if we don't mention the ATIC and Navy analysis, they’ll smell a mouse. Before it was over, the Air Force would be in a real jam."
"You going to tell them that?"
"Yes, I think somebody ought to warn them." Al gave me a dry grin. "Maybe I'm a fool for sticking my neck out but I'll give it a try."
As I was leaving, he told me the final decision would probably be made by the next afternoon.
"If you want to, come in about 4. I'd rather not discuss it on the phone."
When I went in to the Pentagon, next day, Al was not at his desk. It was almost an hour before he came back.
"Is it settled?" I asked quickly.
He gave me a grim look.
"It's settled, all right—the whole thing's killed."
"They're going to keep the film secret?"
"There won't be any public showing—you can take it from there."
"How'd it happen?" I said.
"After they saw my point, it boiled down to telling all or nothing. So it's nothing."
Al sat down and looked dully at the floor.
"It's not right," I muttered.
"The other side thinks it is," Al said. "They think it's the wisest decision. But some of the Intelligence people are pretty sore. They don't think the public's getting a fair shake."
"I don't either. And the more I think about it—Al, I'm going to break this story!"
"There's nothing to stop you—you got the facts cleared. And plenty of our people will be glad to see it come out, so long as you don't give the whole Air Force a black eye."
"Don't worry. I know it's only a small group that blocked this."
Anger over the decision, I found, went far beyond Air Force Intelligence. Next day I received an unsigned note on plain paper, urging me to tell the Utah film story. I recognized the handwriting of a Defense official who knew I was writing a book. Like Al, he asked me not to blast the entire Air Force. Then he added an acid comment:
"There are some human ostriches in the Air Force, and outside as well, who stick their heads in the sand and refuse to accept the most positive evidence. It is no accident that these people haven't correlated the saucer sightings—they obviously fear it will prove facts they don't want to face. But there is a definite pattern, with clues which eventually will give us the final answer."
The tone of his letter didn't surprise me. After the licking the "A" group had taken, they were bound to be bitter. What their defeat would do to the clearance policy, I
could only guess. The lid might go down again on all ATIC cases. But I didn't need any more sighting reports— the evidence I had was enough to prove the main points.
Only one thing was missing—an Air Force report that the saucers came from space. Considering all the facts they had, it seemed almost certain there must be such a report. But the chance of finding out now was about one in a thousand.
Then it suddenly occurred to me that Brennard might have a lead. When I phoned him, I found he already knew about the Utah film decision.
"I'm not surprised," he said. "I never really thought they'd let that out."
"It'll be out, all right," I told him. "I got it cleared."
"How the devil did you finagle that?" Brennard exclaimed.
"I just asked for it and Chop OK'd it."
"I’ll bet somebody higher up told him to, so the public would get the story if the showing was blocked."
"Maybe, but if so he didn't let on."
"With that and all the other cases," said Brennard, "you've certainly got proof the saucers are interplanetary."
"Everything but an Air Force admission. I've got a hunch there's a secret report with that conclusion. Any leads?"
"I heard one thing, but it isn't absolute proof. A month or so ago an official I know was secretly briefed on the saucers. He used to think they were a joke. But after that briefing he told me he was convinced they were extraterrestrial."
"That's the biggest break yet! The Intelligence officer must have said it was the Air Force conclusion."
"It sounds like it, but it could be just his personal opinion."
"Even so, that's still a break. I'm going to ask Chop about this before he leaves for the coast."
By a coincidence Al phoned just as I was about to dial his home number—he had already quit the government.
"I've forgotten your street number," he said. "I've got something to mail you."
"Hold it—I’ll be right out," I said. "I want to see you for a minute."
When I saw Al, I told him what I'd heard about the briefing.
"Doesn't this prove there's a secret report?" I asked.
Al was silent so long I gave up.
"I can't violate security," he said finally, "even if I am out of the service. But I can tell you this. Last fall there was a detailed analysis of all the evidence. I can say that because it wasn't classified when I saw it. After ruling out all other explanations, it came to a definite conclusion. I can't tell you what that conclusion was—by now it's probably top secret."
It was maddening to get so close, only to have the door slammed. I made one last try.
"Al, you've seen all the evidence. Will you tell me your conclusion—as a private citizen?"
He gave me an odd look.
"Maybe this will be even better." He took out the folded carbon of a letter. "This is what I was going to send you. It's our official answer to a letter from your book publishers. Those ATIC cases you outlined must have scared them."
"But I told them the cases were cleared—"
"They wanted an official OK, addressed to them. They got it, also a statement that the Air Force regarded Major Keyhoe as a responsible, accurate reporter—but here, read it yourself."
I picked up from where he'd left off:
"His long association and cooperation with the Air Force, in our study of unidentified flying objects, qualifies him as a leading authority on this investigation.
"The Air Force and its investigative agency, Project
Bluebook are aware of Major Keyhoe's conclusion that the flying saucers are from another planet. The Air Force has never denied that this possibility exists. Some of the personnel believe that there may be some strange natural phenomena completely unknown to us, but that if the apparently controlled maneuvers reported by many competent observers are correct, then the only remaining explanation is the interplanetary answer."
For a second I just stood there, staring at the last sentence.
It was an official Air Force admission that the saucers came from space!
There wasn't the slightest doubt that the saucers' maneuvers were controlled—and Air Force Intelligence knew it. Hundreds of veteran pilots, from Wing Commander Curtis Low on down, had sworn to that. And the simultaneous radar and visual tracking reports proved it beyond all question.
I drew a long breath.
"This does it, Al. I've waited four years for this."
"I thought you'd be interested," he said dryly.
"I guess I don't have to ask what you believe, now."
"I've been convinced for a long time that the saucers are interplanetary. There's no other possible answer."
"One more question," I said. "Do you have any idea what they're up to?"
"No. And I'm positive no one in the Air Force knows for sure. It could be any of a dozen motives—including Odell's answer."
Al paused and looked at me solemnly.
"But one thing's absolutely certain. We're being watched by beings from outer space. You've been right from the very start."
Five months have passed since I learned of the secret Intelligence analysis. Few sightings have been made public in that time, but the mysterious surveillance is still going on. Despite all this, no steps have been taken to prepare the American people.
We are nearing the possibly fateful year of 1954. According to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Russia will then be able to stage a mass A-bomb attack. Leaving the saucers officially unidentified adds to that grave danger. Prior to its D Day, the Soviet might suddenly claim these machines as secret Red weapons. By starting false rumors of Russian saucer attacks, they might cause stampedes from cities, block defense highways, and paralyze communications just before an A-bomb raid.
It is imperative that we end this added danger. At the same time we should also try to forestall panic if the saucers should suddenly land. To that end, I believe four steps should be taken as quickly as possible:
1. The secret Intelligence analysis should be made public, with all the evidence which led to the final conclusion.
2. The Utah film should be released, with the detailed statements by Air Technical Intelligence and Navy Photo-Interpretation.
These two steps, with their massed evidence that the saucers are interplanetary, are almost certain to prevent any false Soviet claims. At the very least, they would greatly reduce any chance that die trick would succeed.
The other two steps are equally important:
3. Project Bluebook should be expanded, given the full-time services of top-level scientists, and coordinated with foreign investigations. An integrated world-wide investigation will probably reveal new facts, especially clues to the motives of the unknown space race.
4. A plan for communication and eventual contact should be drawn up and made world-wide if possible. Such a plan should include standard radio and visual signals for all aircraft, ships, and ground stations. Detailed steps should be worked out to cover every possible development, from the first message to the saucer landings.
If there is any hidden proof that attack or invasion is planned, we should be told at once. The American people have risen to supreme heights before. They would undoubtedly meet this danger, after the first hysteria, as bravely as they have faced all of our great crises. And with our leading scientists working on the problem, perhaps some defense might be found.
However, there is at least an even chance that the space race means us no harm—they may be waiting only for proof that landing here is safe.
All of us—every nation—should be told the truth and made ready for saucer landings. Even if we are fully prepared, there will be tense moments. We must accept the possibility that the saucer creatures may differ from us in form. Even if they are utterly friendly, their strange appearance could cause panic. But there may be no such problem. These beings from another world may resemble us closely, in form if not in size. Regardless of their appearance, we must be ready to match the friendliness of any strangers from space.
Those first meetings with beings from another world
could be the greatest adventure of all time. But we must guard against fear, panic, and violence by our own people, so that no tragic blunder will change peaceful visitors from space into deadly enemies.
For those first dramatic moments may decide the fate of our world.