Ruppelt, E. J. (capitaine, USAFR): Mai 1954. Réédité dans le Rapport True sur les soucoupes volantes, Fawcett Publishers, Inc., Louisville, Kentucky, 1967, pp. 39-57.
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C'est ainsi qu'un enquêteur de l'Air force a résumé son exasperation en essayant de filtrer les faits ovnis de la fantaisie. De 1951 à 1953, l'auteur à dirigé le Projet Blue Book, l'enquête officielle aujourd'hui fameuse sur les ovnis. Voici ce qu'il a appris.
Le 12 août 1953, une femme du Corps des Observateurs au Sol dans les Collines Noires du Dakota du sud voit une lumière stationnaire dans le ciel à Est de sa position. 2 opérateurs d'une station radar sortirent vérifier la chose tandis que la femme était toujours au téléephone. Alors qu'ils scrutaient le ciel, la femme signala, La chose commence à se déplacer au-dessus de Rapid City. Au même moment, les 2 hommes du radar virent la lumière commencer à bouger. Ils retournèrent à leur radar pour la repérer, et la femme signala que l'objet revenait en arrière à sa position d'origine. Le radar got a fix on it at that spot.
Un F-84, en l'air à ce moment, vu dirigé sur la cible. Le pilote du jet observa la lumière visuellement et partit après elle. L'objet se dirigeait vers le Nord avec le jet après lui, et les opérateurs radar observèrent la chasse sur leur écran. L'Objet Volant Non Identifié resta devant le jet et sembla to put on speed chaque fois que le pilote accélérait avec le jet. Après avoir chassé l'objet sur 120 miles, le pilote fut à court de carburant et reçu la permission de revenir. Lorsque le jet fit demi-tour, l'ovni vira également et le suivi sur le retour.
Après que le jet ait atterri, un 2nd F-84 partit pour investiguer. Il fut orienté vers la position et repéra la chose visuellement au-dessus de lui. Il monta jusqu'à 20000 pieds, signala qu'il était au niveau de la lumière, et l'objet décolla à nouveau vers le nord avec le jet à sa poursuite. A nouveau la chasse fut observée sur le radar au sol, l'ovni et le jet étant pleinement visibles sur l'écran.
Dans la 2nde poursuite, le pilote fit un certain nombre de tests pour exclure certains phénomènes courants ayant été pris à tort pour des "soucoupes volantes". Il éteignit toutes les lumières de ses instruments et [kicked the plane around] pour être certain qu'il ne prenait pas en chasse une réflexion de la canopée. Il ne le faisait pas. Il observa l'objet avec attention par rapport aux étoiles, et jura qu'il se déplaçait parmi elles, éliminant ainsi la possibilité qu'il pourchassait une planète ou une étoile. Finalement, lorsqu'il pensa se rapprocher de l'objet, il alluma ses visées de tir radar. Ce type de jet possède une lumière sur le panneau des instruments qui s'allume pour indiquer un "verrouillage" avec la cible par les visées radar. La lumière s'alluma.
Le 2nd jet prit la lumière en chasse à 160 miles au nord avant d'abandonner la poursuite. A ce moment l'ovni continuait à voler vers le nord. Le Centre de Filtrage du Corps d'Observateurs au Sol devant fut alerté, et les observateurs qui s'y trouvaient signalèrent une lumière fonçant vers le nord.
Ce fut de fait un cas étonnant. Il y avait des observatiosn visuelles simultanées depuis 2 sites au sol reliés par téléphone, des observations simultanées au sol et au radar, des observations simultanées sol-radar et jet-visuelle, une poursuite dans laquelle l'ovni sema le jet, une inversion de trajectoire, une 2nde observation jet-visuelle confirmée par le radar au sol, un "verrouillage" radar en l'air et finalement une observations depuis le sol à des centaines de miles de distance.
Qu'était cet objet ? Pendant 2 ans, de 1951 à 1953, j'ai parcouru en vol 200 000 miles, conféré avec des douzaines des meilleurs scientifiques américains et une collection exotique d'excentriques hot-eyed, stumbled through Florida mangrove swamps, dragged moi-même hors du lit à 3 h du matin pour répondre à des appels téléphoniques transatlantiques, inspected scores de photographies étranges et regardé un film court amateur 97 fois dans un effort pour répondre à cela et des questions similaires.
Mes collègues et moi furent fustigés par des collègues américains pour avoir dissimulé la plus grande nouvelle dans l'histoire de l'homme moderne, et par Radio Moscou pour setting the stage de la guerre atomique.
Je fus qualifié de dupe ignorant, un Charlie McCarthy manipulé par des forces puissantes au Pentagone. Je fus consulté par la Maison Blanche, et j'ai briefé la plus haute figure de l'Air Force, qui écoutait respectueusement et me laissa faire tout l'exposé.
Pendant 2 ans, avec l'aide des meilleurs cerveaux du pays, nous avons travaillé sur un jigsaw géant d'un mystère qui était soit sans aucune signification, soit ferait basculer le monde.
Pour chaque morceau que nous remettions en place, nous trouvions que 2 autres avaient été ajoutés à la pile du puzzle.
Je me suis finalement retrouvé à inspecter sobrement un morceau de fumier de vache pour apprendre s'il était venu de l'espace.
De 1951 à 1953, j'étais en charge de l'enquête officielle de l'Air Force sur les Objets Volants Non Identifiés, les choses qui whiz à travers l'espace sous le nom populaire de "soucoupes volantes".
L'Ere de la Soucoupe Volante en était à l'An 5 lorsqu'it plucked me out de mon travail d'analyste en renseignement technique pour le Centre de Renseignement Technique de l'Air à Wright Field, Dayton (Ohio).
L'an 1 s'ouvrit le 24 juin 1947, lorsqu'un homme d'affaires de Boise nommé Kenneth Arnold signala avoir vu une chaîne de 9 choses semblables à des soucoupes glinting dans le soleil alors qu'elles volaient à 1200 miles/h - 2 fois la vitesse du son - près du Mont Rainier. Son histoire snared l'imagination de la nation avec un fait baffling. Aucun appareil connu dans le monde n'avait brisé le mur du son à cette époque. Je ne le crois pas, dit Arnold, mais je l'ai vu.
S'il n'y avait eu que l'histoire d'Arnold, l'ère de la Soucoupe Volante se serait ouverte et refermée en 1 jour. Mais les 30 jours qui suivirent il y eut 53 signalements de soucoupes de plus. Près de Portland (Oregon), un couple de sherrifs adjoints en signala 20 dans une ligne allant like hell vers l'ouest. Une mère au foyer de Chicago en vit un avec des jambes et courut dans la maison et claqua la porte. Un prospecteur dans les montagnes Cascade repéré 5 ou 6 d'entre eux avec des queues et fut effaré de voir son compas magnétique tourner violemment. A Spokane, une femme signala 5 d'entre eux de la taille d'une maison de 5 pièces. Les siens avaient la forme de like washtubs. Un homme particulièrement serein à Seattle spoke out et rapporté, Pourquoi passent-ils tout le temps à travers notre jardin.
A l'époque, j'étais dehors au Parc National de Yellowstone, en vacances du Collège de l'Etat d'Iowa, où j'étudiais l'ingéniérie aéronautique. C'était ma 2ème tentative pour un diplôme. J'avais laissé tomber la 1ère fois, en 1942, pour m'engager dans l'Air Force. J'avais été affecté comme bombardier dans le 1er escadron de B-29 organisé, flown the Hump out of India, puis nous partirent over to Tinian pour les gros raids contre le Japon. Notre groupe vola la dernière mission de la guerre, un raid contre Tokuyama, quelques minutes avant la fin de la guerre.
Quelques jours après l'observation de Arnold, des jeunes jetaient des assiettes en papier en l'air au-dessus de notre loge à Yellowstone et criaient, Soucoupe, soucoupe ! Certains touristes commençaient à voir des choses et venir et en parler, comme si leurs vacances étaient terminées. Je lu l'histoire d'Arnold et la jettais au loin. 2 fois au-dessus du Japon j'avais vu des objets étranges dans le ciel. 1 était une lumière jaune-orangée qui suivit notre B-29 pendant un moment et qui suddenly winked out. Le consensus était qu'il s'agissait d'un "foo fighter"-la lumière étrange repérée des douzaines de fois par des aviateurs au-dessus de l'Europe et du Japon. La théorie était que c'était un phénomène électro-statique. Une autre fois, en volant sur le chemin du retour avec les nerfs jumpy après une mission difficile, I cut loose with 6 armes de calibres 0,50 sur un objet brillant juste vers l'aube. Après getting the crew in an uproar, je réalisais soudain que je tirais sur la planète Vénus.
Parmi les observations qui suivaient Arnold, cependant, il y en avait qui avaient plus l'air d'une hystérie. Elles venaient de pilotes accoutûmés aux tours qu'un vol peut jouer sur les yeux, de scientifiques, parmi d'autres observateurs a priori sobre et non excités. Un météorologue en charge de la station du bureau météo U.S. de Louisville (Kentucky), signala une lumière orange "roulant" à travers le ciel nocturne. Au terrain d'aviation de Muroc, en Californie, le site d'essais d'un avion expérimental secret du gouvernement, le lieutenant Joseph McHenry repéra 2 objets argentés de forme sphérique ou semblable à un disque. Il appela 3 autres personnes de la base qui virent les mêmes choses. 3 autres témoins rejoignirent le groupe, et 5 des 7 virent un 3ème objet. Aucun appareil expérimental n'était dans les airs. Les objets se déplaçaient contre le vent et par conséquent n'étaient pas des ballons. Quelques heures plus tard, un major et un colonel de Muroc firent des observations séparées d'un objet fin métallique qui fôlatra au-dessus du terrain pendant 8 mn.
L'Air Force, appris-je plus tard, hésité entre 2 écoles de pensée concernant cette première éruption d'observations. Certains responsables d'assez haut rang êtaient préoccupés à leur sujet. Les U.S. avaient vu la complacency mener à un Pearl Harbor, et la tension internationale commençait à tighten sous le climat de la "guerre froide." Ces responsables pensaient que nous devrions trouver — et rapidement — ce qui causait l'épidémie des histoires de soucoupes.
Opposés étaient ceux qui affirmaient que l'histoire d'Arnold avait déclenché une hystérie de masse. Ils pensaient que la publicité accordée aux premières observations avait amené des millions de gens à scruter le ciel pour "voir une soucoupe," et qu'ils s'illusionnaient eux-mêmes avec toutes sortes de choses — un papier pris dans le vent, des oiseaux, des reflets d'avions. Ce groupe raisonnaient que les observations allaient diminuer avec le cours normal des événements.
Les sceptiques étaient confortés par la découverte que le récit d'Arnold avait des manques. Ses estimations de la taille des objets et de leur distance de son avion ne concordaient pas. Il les rapporta être entre 20 et 25 miles de distance et de 45 à 50 pieds de long. Lorsque son observation fut analysée, on découvrit que des objets de cette taille ne pouvaient être discernés à l'oeil nu depuis cette distance. Si son estimation de taille était correcte, les objets n'étaient éloignés que de 6 ou 7 miles — et volaient à 400 miles/h environ, des valeurs tout à fait dans l'intervalle d'un appareil conventionnel.
The early skepticism was strengthened when none of the objects indicated any menace, landed, or crashed where examination could establish that they were indeed something new under the sun.
La première dispute sur la prise en charge des histoires d'Objets Volants Non Identifiés fut résolue par les ovnis eux-mêmes. Ils persistaient, mois après mois, avec un noyau dur d'incidents qui venaient d'observateurs chevronnés et défiaient l'analyse. L'Air Force décida de centraliser l'investigation et élabora un corps de données qui pouvait être analysé.
Ils mirent en place le Projet Sign et went after the saucers in earnest. Par la suite le nom de code fut changé pour "Grudge." Nous le changeâmes plus tard en "Blue Book" lorsque quelqu'un au Pentagone suggéra que "Grudge" donnait l'impression que le projet abordait le travail begrudgingly. Le code "Blue Book" fut prit des livres bleu de college traditionnels qui avaient toutes les réponses aux questions des examens. Cela ne se révéla pas un choix particulièrement judicieux.
Les observations continuaient d'arriver à une moyenne de 1 tous les 3 jours. La controverse à leur sujet augmenta et la confusion se multiplia. Des articles commençaient à crop up dans les magazines nationaux, et les commentateurs radio periodically broadcast "the inside story of the saucers," with each account contradicting the other. They were secret U.S. weapons, new Russian craft, emissaries from an-other planet scouting the earth.
En 1949, l'Air Force soumit les 375 observations alors en main à une ré-évaluation intensive, et émis un rapport épais sur ses conclusions. Le Dr. J. Allen Hynek, alors directeur du département d'astronomie à l'Université de l'Etat d'Ohio, screened the reports for things of astronomical nature, such as stars, planets, meteors. The Air Force Air Weather Service checked the reports for balloons. The Rand Corporation (a high-level research group that has nothing to do with the business-machine firm), the Air Force Geophysical Laboratory, the U.S. Weather Bureau, and Dr. F. M. Fitts, a psychologist from the Air Force Aero-medical Laboratory, made some general appraisals from their specialized viewpoints.
La Rand Corporation commenta : Nous n'avons rien trouvé qui contredirait sérieusement des explications rationnelles simples des phénomènes divers en termes de ballons, appareils conventionnels, planètes, météores, morceaux de papier, illusions d'optique, practical jokers, psychopathological reporters and the like.
Dr. Hynek: En considèrant les éléments des observateurs et des enquêteurs comme corrects, il est conclut it que 32 % peuvent être expliqués astronomiquement, 35 % peuvent être attribués à des oiseaux, fusées, avions, etc. et que 33 % ont manqué d'éléments ou pour lesquelles une explication adaptée n'était pas apparente.
Le Service de la Météo Aérienne de l'USAF se cantonna à son domaine, commenta que 12 % étaient apparemment des ballons.
Sur les 375 rapports, 13 % n'avaient pas des solutions facilement explicables. Le Dr. Fitts avanca une théorie : Il y a suffisamment d'explications psychologiques aux signalements d'Objets Volants Non Identifiés pour fournir des explications plausibles aux rapports qui ne sont pas explicables autrement. Ces erreurs dans l'identification de stimuli réels résultent principalement de l'incapacité à estimé les vitesse, distance et taille.
Supporting these analyses were bulky articles of carefully reasoned and qualified consideration of the data. La presse, toujours avide d'une réponse qui tiendrais en 2 lignes d'un titre qui compterait 12 lettre par ligne, condensa l'ensemble du rapport en un "write-off" par l'Air Force. Les ovnis ignoraient la Rand Corp., le Dr. Hynek, la presse, et al, et continuaient à voler. En 1950 exactement le même nombre atterrirent dans les dossiers du projet — 152 — qu'il n'y en avait eu en 1949.
Alors en 1951, ils commencèrent à dwindle.
Dans le même temps j'avais terminé mon travail au college de Ames and had rolled up my new sheepskin juste à temps pour être rappelé en service à l'Air Force à cause de la Corée. Ils me basèrent à Dayton, où durant les 7 premiers mois je travaillais sur des appareils conventionnels que vous pouvez voir, sentir et mesurer.
La fonction principale du Centre de Renseignement Technique de l'Air n'est pas, comme certaines personnes le pensent, d'analyser le mystère des ovnis. Il est chargé de la prévention de la surprise technologique par un pays étranger. Il étudie l'ensemble des données qu'il peut obtenir sur un appareil ennemi, des missiles guidés, et les avances technologiques sur tout ce qui vole. Il obtint le projet soucoupe parce qu'une chose sur laquelle tous les observateurs s'accordaient était - les choses volent.
Cela amena un jour un enquêteur harassé de Blue Book à se plaindre : Pourquoi diable ces damnées choses ne nagent pas qu'on puisse les retourner à la Marine ?
A l'été 1951, Grudge was down to one man, les observations diminuaient, et c'était comme si le projet allait être classé par manque de travail. En juin, pour le 1er mois en 4 ans, pas une seule observation n'arriva. En août l'enquêteur solitaire fut transferré, et le proejt fut confié à un ami à moi, le lieutenant Jerry Cummings. J'avais l'habitude de débarquer et de le titillier sur l'état médiocre du boulot des soucoupes.
Tu vas ne plus avoir de travail, garçon, lui dis-je.
Tu as raison, me dit-il, mais la mauvaise raison. I got a discharge coming up.
A 15 h le 13 septembre 1951, le projet revint soudain à la vie. Le téléscripteur de l'ATIC commença à chattering out un message long d'un yard du nord du New Jersey. When it signed off, on aurait dit que c'était comme si le Garden State avait été envahi par quelque chose sorti de H. G. Wells.
Cela avait commencé 2 jours auparavant, le 10 septembre à 11 h 00, lorsqu'un opérateur stagiaire faisait une démonstration à un groupe de visiting brass à une école radar du New Jersey. Il avait été choisi parce qu'il était le meilleur homme de sa classe. Il fit la démonstration de l'dispositif en opération manuelle pendant un moment, repérant le traffic aérien local. Alors il annonça qu'il allait faire la démonstration du repérage automatique, dans lequel l'dispositif est place sur une cible et la suit sans aide de l'opérateur. Le dispositif pouvait suivre des objets volant à des vitesses de jet.
L'opérateur repéra un objet à environ 12000 yards au sud-est de la station, volant bas vers le nord. Il essaya d'enclencher le mode automatique. Il n'y parvint pas, essaya à nouveau, et échoua à nouveau. Il se retourna vers son auditoire de VIP embarrassé.
Il va trop vite pour le dispositif, dit-il. Cela veut dire qu'il va plus vite qu'un jet !
Un lot de sourcils très importants se soulevèrent. Qu'est-ce qui vole plus vite qu'un jet ?
The object was in range for three minutes and the operator kept trying, without success, to get an automatic track. It finally went off the scope, leaving a red-faced operator talking to himself.
Twenty-five minutes later, the pilot of a jet trainer, carrying an Air Force major as passenger and flying 20000 pieds au-dessus de Point Pleasant (New Jersey), spotted a dull silver disclike object far below him. He described it as 30 à 50 pieds de diamètre and as descending toward Sandy Hook from an altitude of a mile or so. He banked over and started down after it. As he shot down, he reported, the object stopped its descent, hovered, then sped south, made a 120-degree turn and vanished out to sea
The Jersey puzzle then switched back to the radar group. A 15 h 15 they got an excited call from headquarters to pick up a target high and to the north - which was where the first faster-than-a-jet object had vanished - and to pick it up in a hurry. They got a fix on it and reported that it was traveling slowly at 93000 feet. They also could see it visually as a silver speck.
What flies 18 miles above the earth?
The next morning two radar sets picked up another target that couldn't be tracked automatically. It would climb, level off, climb again, go into a dive. When it climbed, it went almost straight up.
The two-day sensation ended that afternoon when an unidentified hovering object was picked up for several minutes.
A copy of the long New Jersey report went to Washington, and shortly later Dayton got instructions to go up, investigate and report to the Pentagon. In a matter of hours, Lt. Cummings and an ATIC lieutenant colonel were flying out to see what was up.
Two days later they were back with reams of raw data. Before Cummings could start sorting out the jigsaw, he got his discharge.
Up to this point, I had done the work I was assigned to and paid little attention to flying saucers. But the New Jersey outbreak fascinated me. Whatever had happened there was plainly a lot more than the occasional "saucer" story I'd read in the papers, where a Dakota farmer saw something zip over his barn, or a housewife saw six discs wobbling through the sky while she hung up her wash. My curiosity overcame the ancient rule that men in uniform have followed since Hannibal's day. I volunteered.
I told myself that I'd solve the Jersey puzzle and then go back to my regular work. It turned out that I did neither. As if to jeer at my brash confidence, the UFO's suddenly started flying all over the country. In a matter of days I found myself down in Texas tangled up in one of the classics of the saucer saga - the Lubbock lights.
I went into the UFO investigation with curiosity and no preconceptions. I soon found that the job had enormous difficulties. The basic one was that there were no precedents, rules or manuals for chasing flying saucers. The evidence you work with-with few exceptions-is the recollection of observers, usually excited, puzzled or frightened humans trying to describe events completely foreign to their experience. And what they had seen usually appeared unexpectedly and vanished in a matter of seconds. After a few months I got so I could predict the start of their stories.
"Now listen," they would say, in a mixture of apology and belligerence, "I never believed in these things before. I laughed at them like everybody else. You can check me with any of my friends. I'm not cracked and I wasn't drunk. I don't know what it was, but I tell you, l SAW it.
What did they see? Trying to evaluate it led you into a dozen complex technical fields - psychology, meteorology, physiology, astronomy, aerodynamics, electronics, physics, logic, chemistry, plain and fancy detective work.
Most of the people we talked to tried earnestly to tell us exactly what they had seen. But human beings are imperfect observers. This is not something unique to saucer sighters. Police and newspapermen have struggled with it for years. Ten eyewitnesses to an auto wreck will tell ten different stories, and each will be positive that his is the true account. Autos travel only 60 or 70 miles an hour. The incidents we investigated involved things supposedly moving as fast as 25,000 miles an hour. And they were seen from great distances, usually under the worst possible conditions for accurate reporting, often at night and for only a few seconds.
The data in the Lubbock case was much better than in 99 percent of the incidents that came into Blue Book. It involved multiple sightings by a group of Ph.D.'s, backstopped by a series of independent sightings. In addition, there were pictures-four of them.
Les observations avaient duré pendant des semaines avant que nous en entendions parler. Elles avaient commencé le soir du 25 août, lorsque 4 professeurs de la Faculté Technologique du Texas étaient assis dans le jardin de l'une de leurs maisons à chercher des yeux des météores. A 21:20, un vol de lumières vertes-bleuâtres bizarres, en formation grossièrement de croissant, raced across the sky. The sight caught them by surprise. Being men of science, they deplored the fact that their first startled observation had been hasty and incomplete. They vowed to do better if the lights reappeared. That night they made a second sighting. In the next few weeks, they made twelve more.
When I got to Lubbock, they had compiled what data they could. They had measured the angular velocity and found it to be 30 degrees per second. In an effort to compute the speed, they had set up an ingenious two-way radio system and had tried to get sightings from two spots and make a rough triangulation. This had failed, but the failure provided a clue.
The sightings had been reported in the local paper. In the nights following the first appearance of the flying lights, they were seen by hundreds of nonprofessorial witnesses. Arguments were raging all over Lubbock as to whether the objects were new secret missiles, space ships-or ducks.
On the night of August 31, an 18-year-old amateur photographer shot some pictures. He had the prints and the negatives. The pictures were later reproduced all over the world, and are included in almost every book about the saucers.
I was lying in bed when I saw a flight of the lights go over, he said. I grabbed my loaded Kodak 35 and went out in the back yard. In a little while a second flight came over and I made two shots. Then a third flight passed over and I took three more shots. The camera was set at f 3.5 and the shutter at 1/10 of a second.
His prints were clear, and showed the lights in a sharply defined V. One of the negatives had been misplaced, but we had four for analysis. Each showed 18 lights in the V formation, with a larger one off to the right. This was promptly labeled the mother ship by the science-fiction boys-an analysis that struck me as 99 % fiction and about one per cent science.
Close examination showed a peculiarity in the pictures that has been ignored in almost every account of them that I have read. There is a marked dissimilarity in the lights in the four pictures. In one, they are diagonal dashes; in the next, roughly circular; in the third, they are tadpole-shaped, with their tails all pointed to the left; in the fourth, they are like arrowheads. In each picture, the "mother ship" changes shape to match her brood.
I have read in dozens of accounts that "the Air Force has declared these pictures to be authentic." The Air Force said nothing of the sort. The pictures were submitted to intense scrutiny at the photo laboratory at Wright Field. There was little that could be evaluated. There were no points of reference in the pictures-only the lights. The photos had not been retouched. The Air Force said only that The photos were never proved to be a hoax.
The endless retellings of the Lubbock story recount the multiple sightings, the impeccable reputation of the observers, the supporting evidence of the "authentic" pictures-and stop there. The full story contains some intriguing facts. It is told here for the first time.
D'abord, quoi que montrent les clichés, il ne s'agit pas des lumières vues par les professeurs. Ils ont regardé les images et l'on dit. Leurs 2 premières observations étaient grossièrement en croissant, et le reste n'avait pas de motif géométrique - en forme de V ou autre. Aucune des observations indépendantes n'était en forme de V, non plus. Les images, cependant, sont aussi précises en formation qu'une double rangée de Radio City Rockettes.
Second, the pictures were taken on a clear night, with plenty of stars. No stars show in the pictures. This means that the lights were much brighter than the stars-and in Texas, the stars at night are big and bright. Neither the professors nor the other observers described their lights as big and bright. Theirs were dull and glowing.
Third, with much of the town scanning the sky, no one else in Lubbock reported the lights on August 30, when the photographer saw his three bright, spectacularly geometric flights.
Fourth, we reconstructed the scene later at Dayton, attempted to duplicate the pictures, and failed. The photographer had showed me the site in his back yard. Because of trees and other obstructions, it afforded a span of 120 degrees of clear sky. I questioned him about the speed at which the lights crossed the sky. He estimated it at 30 degrees a second-a figure that agreed with the earlier estimates by the professors. To double-check, I had him move his hand across the sky and clocked him. It was close to 30 degrees a second. This gave him four seconds in which to shoot each flight-two pictures one time, three the next.
The Kodak 35 has a hand wind to feed fresh film into place. At Dayton we simulated 120 degrees of open sky with lights traveling 30 degrees a second, took a Kodak 35, and tried to shoot and wind until we had three shots. We couldn't do it. We tried over and over, with different people. The best anyone could squeeze in was two badly hurried shots. And with the shutter at 1/10 of a second the two shots were badly blurred.
In poking around Lubbock, I talked to many people who had seen the lights and were sure that they were birds. One old gentleman had seen the lights several nights. His description matched that of the professors.
Shucks, officer, he drawled. Them things is plovers.
I went off to read up on plovers. They're water birds about the size of quail with light breasts that could reflect light. A local game warden told me there were plovers in the vicinity.
A few blocks from the area where most of the sightings had been made was a boulevard lighted by mercury vapor lights that gave off an intense bluish-white glare. Then I recalled an odd bit of information. When the professors had tried to set up a second observation post elsewhere, they saw nothing, while the sightings continued at the original spot - near the lighted boulevard.
Four times in the following year, at Fargo, N. D., Greenville, S. C., Randolph Air Force Base, and Bakersfield, Calif., we got cases that duplicated the Lubbock affair. Each time they proved to be birds reflecting ground lights.
The project files carry the Lubbock lights as "unknown." The pictures were never proved to be a hoax. Maybe, under intense excitement, one man in a thousand can shoot three unblurred shots with a hand-held Kodak 35 in four seconds. I'll believe it when I see it done.
But so far as what the professors saw, I think that a 10-gauge shotgun would have brought down the Lubbock saucers in a shower of feathers.
While I was in Lubbock, a temporary investigator, Lt. Henry Metscher, had made some sense out of the Jersey mystery that had lured me into saucer chasing. Among the data that Cummings had brought back on the faster-than-a-jet radar objects were some plots on locations and times. It turned out that the object that had outsped the automatic tracking and startled the VIPs actually plotted out at an unspectacular 400 mph. On questioning, the operator conceded that he had got excited because of the visiting brass. The object undoubtedly was a conventional plane.
The "disc" spotted over Sandy Hook by the jet? Metscher learned that a large balloon painted silver for radar tracking had been launched near Sandy Hook just before the pilot and the AF major saw their UFO. What about its maneuvering? Hang onto that question for a bit.
The excited call the next morning from headquarters? Another balloon carrying a radar target. The HQ officers had a bet on about its altitude, wanted a fast report, didn't bother to tell the radar crew the reason for the urgency. By this time the radar boys had the saucer fever and were ready to see anything. The second supersonic object proved to be a weather blip. The last saucer that hung ominously over New Jersey was definitely tabbed as another balloon.
I congratulated Metscher and settled down to the business of knocking off saucers like an ace skeet shooter. If the saucers can laugh (we had several that whistled), they probably zipped through the stratosphere chuckling to themselves.
One of the first things I did was to go back over the files of the project from its inception. There were some odd facts and some baffling sightings. One thing I learned was that Arnold wasn't the Columbus of the flying saucer at all. The project had thirteen listings prior to June 24,1947 - the supposed dawn of the Era. They all had come into the project after Arnold told his story, with the usual explanation that the observers had been reluctant to tell their tales until had broken the ice.
Parmi les observations post-Arnold furent 3 classiques - la tragédie dans laquelle le capitaine Thomas Mantell trouva la mort, le duel entre un F-51 et une lumière à Fargo, Dakota du Nord, et l'observation d'un vaisseau spatial avec des fenêtres éclairées par un avion de ligne près de Montgomery (Ala.)
Le cas Mantell fut titré dans tout le pays comme Un pilote tué en chassant une soucoupe. Sa tragédie est intimement liée au folklore soucoupiste, et est fréquemment relaté en conjonction avec l'histoire locale d'un avion qui décolla après avoir vu une chose dans le ciel et qu'on ne revit jamais. J'ai entendu des variantes locales de cette histoire peut-être une vingtaine de fois. Chaque fois le récit commence ainsi : Vous vous souvenez quand Mantell fut abattu par une soucoupe ? Ecoutez ce qui arriva ici le mois dernier…
L'après-midi du 7 Janvier 1948, 2 aviateurs de la tour de contrôle de la base USAF de Godman, près de Louisville, Kentucky, commencent à recevoir des appels au sujet d'un objet non identifié repéré par des civils dans la région. Il vérifient avec le Service de Vol la possibilité d'un appareil expérimental, et on leur indique qu'aucun ne se trouve dans le voisinage. Peu après, l'un d'entre eux repère un objet depuis la tour, le montrant à son compagnon. Ils avertissement leurs officiers, qui ont également vu quelque chose.
A ce moment, 4 F-51 de la Garde Nationale du Kentucky approchent de la base. Mantell, the chef de patrouille, reçoit l'ordre d'aller inspecter l'objet et de tenter de l'identifier. Un de ses appareils doit atterrir par manque de carburant. Mantell et les deux autres partent vers la chose dans le ciel.
Le récit de l'Air Force concernant le cas fut monumentally fouled up. Les 3 aviateurs y décrivent l'objet comme métallique et de taille énorme, et y esst décrit comment Mantell est monté loin de ses collègues, envoyant des rapports par radio à la tour jusqu'à devenir brutalement silencieux. Un moment plus tard son corps fut trouvé dans la carcasse de son avion éparpillée sur une large zone. Le récit indique alors que la première analyse du cas a conclut qu'il avait pris en chasse la planète Vénus.
La réaction du public à ce récit fut évidemment : Qui croient-ils tromper ? Si 3 aviateurs se sont accordés sur le fait que la chose était métallique et énorme, comment cela aurait-il pu être la planète Vénus ? Plus tard dans le cadre du projet, nous eurent de nombreux cas de pilotes confondant Vénus (et d'autres planètes) avec quelque chose volant dans le ciel. Aucun d'entre eux ne décrit jamais quelque chose d'énorme.
En examinant les rapports d'origine sur la tragédie, j'ai appris les choses suivantes :
Le projet apprit plus tard qu'il y avait un énorme ballon Skyhook dans les environs. Il fut repéré plus tard au Sud-Ouest de Louisville par deux observateurs avec des télescopes, et fut identifié comme un balloon. Une telle identification aurait dû disqualifier la planète Vénus dans les spéculations de l'Air Force.
Pourquoi un pilote expérimenté tel que Mantell chasserait un ballon ? Les Skyhooks étaient nouveaux à cette époque et il pouvait donc ne pas en avoir entendu parler. Pour lui, un ballon c'était un des petits modèles météo fréquemment lancés depuis les terrains d'aviation.
Qu'arriva-t-il à son avion ? Pourquoi l'épave fut-elle éparpillée sur une surface si grande si il n'avait pas été explosé par une soucoupe hostile ?
L'épave montra que l'avion avait trimmed pour monter. Mantell n'avait pas d'oxygène à bord, et il se trouvait à près de 20000 pieds - presque 4 miles d'altitude lorsque ses aviateurs abandonnèrent l'ascension. Il est probable qu'il perdit connaissance par manque d'oxygène. A une altitude supérieure, la puissance de l'avion aurait lâché et le F-51 se serait perdu avec un homme inconscient aux commandes. Le couple des propulseur l'amènerait par un lent virage à gauche dans une chute limitée, puis une descente de plus en plus plus abrupte sous l'effet de la puissance moteur. A un moment de cette chute criarde, l'avion atteignit un vitesse trop grande et commenca à se briser en vol…
(Dans une lettre à True sur ce point, le capitaine William B. Nash écrit : En tant que pilote, Ruppelt doit savoir qu'il a écrit une véritable dissimulation lorsque il a dit à propos du cas Mantell, "Le couple des propulseur l'amènerait par un lent virage à gauche dans une chute limitée, puis une descente de plus en plus plus abrupte sous l'effet de la puissance moteur. A un moment de cette chute criarde, l'avion atteignit un vitesse trop grande et commenca à se briser en vol…" Tout Dilbert sait qu'à mesure que la vitesse d'un avion augmente son ascension augmente, et le nez de l'avion aurait monté jusqu'à ce que la vitesse décroisse à nouveau et le nez aurait plongé une nouvelle fois pour reprendre de la vitesse et remonter, créant ainsi une oscillation tout le long - pas une "chute criarde". L'avion pourrait tourner ou spiraler au lieu d'osciller, mais une rotation est une manoeuvre statique, et les avions ne partent pas s'ils sont statiques. L'oscillation est ce qui lui serait plus probablement arrivé si l'avion avait tenté de monter... et... comme l'indique Ruppelt "L'épave a montré que l'avion avait souffert de la montée".
Classique n° 2 - the dogfight between the plane and the saucer. It is listed as the lone case of "combat" between a plane and a saucer. Actually, there were three other such cases.
The pilot was George F. Gorman, a 25-year-old second lieutenant in the North Dakota Air National Guard. On October 1, 1948, starting at 9 p.m., he chased an apparently disembodied light for 27 minutes in his fast F-51. He described the UFO as "a small hall of clear white light, between six and eight inches in diameter." For awhile it winked on and off, then it appeared to put on power and glowed steadily. Gorman pushed his F-51 to the limit and was unable to catch it. He reported that it made one turn that he couldn't follow and twice came at him in what appeared to be ramming attacks. Both times he dived his plane out of the collision course. The "dogfight" ranged from low level up 17,000 feet, and the light finally pulled straight up and disappeared.
I had the distinct impression that its maneuvers were controlled by thought or reason, Gorman said.
Four other observers at Fargo partially corroborated his story. An oculist, Dr. A. D. Cannon was near the field in his plane with a passenger, Einar Neilson. They saw a light "moving fast," but did not witness all the maneuvers that Gorman reported. Two CAA employees, on the ground, saw a light move over the field once.
Here are the other "dogfight" cases:
On June 21, 1952, at 10:58 pm., a Ground Observer Spotter reported that a slow-moving craft was nearing one of our atomic energy installations. An F-47 patrol in the area was vectored in visually, spotted a light and closed on it. They "fought" from 10,000 to 27,000 feet and several times the object made what seemed to be ramming attacks. The light was described as white, 6 to 8 inches in diameter, blinking until it put on power. The pilot could see no silhouette of anything attached to it. The similarity of the Fargo case was striking.
On the night of Dec. 10, 1952, near another atomic installation, the pilot and radar observer of a patrolling F-94 spotted a light while flying at 26,000 feet. They checked and were told that no planes were known to be in the area. They closed on the object and saw a large, round white "thing" with a dim, reddish light coming from two "windows." They lost visual contact, but got a radar lock-on. They reported that when they attempted to close on it again, it would reverse direction and drop away. Several times the plane altered course itself because collision seemed imminent. There was a solid undercast of clouds, which would eliminate the possibility of refraction of ground lights.
The other "dogfight" occurred September 24, 1952, between a Navy pilot of a TBM and a light over Cuba. It had a sequel that revealed some fascinating information about the illusions the supposedly objective human eye can contrive.
The pilot had just finished making some practice passes for night fighters when he spotted an orange light to the east of his plane. He checked on aircraft in the area, learned that the object was unidentified, and started after it. Here is his report, written immediately after he landed:
"As it (the light) approached the city from the east it started a left turn. I started to intercept. During the first part of the chase the closest I got to the light was 8 to 10 miles. At this time it appeared to be as large as an SNB and had a greenish tail that looked to be five to six times as long as the light's diameter. This tail was seen several times in the next 10 minutes in periods of from 5 to 30 seconds each. As I reached 10,000 feet it appeared to be 15,000 feet and in a left turn. It took 40 degrees of bank to keep the nose of my plane on the light. At this time I estimated the light to be in a 10 to 15 mile orbit.
"At 12,000 feet I stopped climbing, but the light was still climbing faster than I was. I then reversed my turn from left to right and the light also reversed. As I was not gaining distance, I held a steady course south trying to estimate a perpendicular between the light and myself. The light was moving north, so I turned north. As I turned, the light appeared to move west, then south over the base. I again tried to intercept but the light appeared to climb rapidly at a 60 degree angle. It climbed to 35,000 feet, then started a rapid descent.
'Prior to this, while the light was still at approximately 15,000 feet, I deliberately placed it between the moon and myself three times to try to identify a solid body. I, and my two crew men, all had a good view of the light as it passed the moon. We could see no solid body. We considered the fact that it might be an aerologist's balloon, but we did not see a silhouette. Also, we would have rapidly caught up with and passed a balloon.
"During its descent, the light appeared to slow down at about 10,000 feet, at which time I made three runs on it. Two were on a 90degree collision course, and the light traveled at tremendous speed across my bow. On the third run I was so close that the light blanked out the airfield below me. Suddenly it started a dive and I followed, losing it at 1,500 feet."
When he landed, anyone who would have tried to tell him he was chasing a lighted weather balloon would have had a rough time. Twenty-four hours later, he was convinced that he had chased a balloon.
The following night, a lighted balloon was sent up and the pilot was ordered up to compare his experiences. He duplicated his "dogfight" - illusions and all. The Navy furnished us with a long analysis of the affair, explaining how the pilot had been fooled. It is recommended or anyone who believes that an experienced pilot cannot be fooled by what he sees.
In each of our four cases of "dog-fights", including Gorman's, a balloon was known to be in the vicinity.
In the case involving the ground observer and the F-47 near the atomic installation, we plotted the winds and calculated that a balloon was right at the spot where the pilot encountered the light.
In the other instance, with the "white object with two windows," we found that a skyhook balloon had been plotted at the exact site of the "battle."
Why can't experienced pilots recognize a baIloon when they see one? If they are flying at night, odd things can happen to their vision. There is the problem of vertigo, as well as disorientation brought on by flying without points of reference. Night fighters have told dozens of stories of being fooled by lights.
On the night of November 24. 1951. there was another incident, with multiple sightings. It started when a CAA tower in southern Michigan told the Air Force Flight Service that an airline crew had seen a huge object with bluish-white flames going southwest at an extremely high speed. At about the same time, other reports flooded in from Air Force personnel at Selfridge AFB, north of Detroit, from a soldier on leave at Battle Creek, from another CAA tower, from some sheriff's deputies. All reported the same sort of object going the same direction. Most of them described it as rocket-shaped. One, an experienced pilot, was certain it was a V-2 type missile. All these observers-at scattered points-reported the thing "about four miles east." It turned out to be a very large meteor passing over the New England states; we verified it with experienced meteor observers and the time checked to the dot. I talked to a number of the witnesses later and they remained firm in their belief that they had seen a Something.
It is popular folklore among the more fanatical saucer fans that the Air Force has either bungled or deliberately sabotaged the saucer investigation. Our sterner critics imply that a saucer could land within ten feet of a Project Blue Book man, and he would turn his back on it and walk away. Frank Scully says, "It's high time that the Air Force stop fumbling with the saucer question and turn the investigation over to a competent civilian group."
It is utter nonsense, of course, to charge that Blue Book doesn't want to verify the existence of the saucers. If they come from outer space, the first man to lock down proof of it would go down in history with a bigger name than Christopher Columbus. He'd be remembered when such minor figures as U.S. Presidents were long forgotten.
Every time a good sighting came into Blue Book, you could feel a suppressed excitement run through the staff, an unspoken Maybe this is it.
Here is what Blue Book did in its efforts to pin down the facts about the flying saucers. Virtually all the evidence we had to work with was the reports of witnesses. Shortly after I took over the project, we set about preparing a model questionnaire that would get the maximum amount of data from the witnesses. If there was a pattern to the saucer stories, we wanted to find it.
The project had tried a variety of questionnaires in the past. We gathered all these together along with a cross section of accounts by witnesses. We took this material to the psychology department of a Midwest university that is noted for the excellence of its statistical questionnaires. We got together a panel of engineers, physicists, mathematicians, astronomers and psychologists to list the questions they would like to have answered. The project also listed the things it wanted to know. Then the psychologists determined whether it was feasible to expect an eyewitness to answer each question and if so, how it should be worded.
When we got through with all this, we used the result as a test model, and sent it out to several hundred saucersighters. When the reports were returned, we revised the questionnaires again, from the way it had worked out. The result is the standard questionnaire that Blue Book is using today.
The questionnaire ran eight pages and had 68 questions. It was booby-trapped in a couple of places to give us a crosscheck on the reliability of the reporter as a witness. We got quite a few questionnaires answered in such a way that it was obvious that the signer was drawing on his imagination.
From this standard questionnaire, the project worked up two more. One dealt with radar sightings of UFO's, the other with sightings made from a plane.
At the instigation of Blue Book, the Air Force sent out orders to every one of its installations in the world, instructing them on the reporting of "saucers." Immediate reports were to be made by wire to ATIC, listing the basic data such as time, date, location, description of the object, names of observers, etc. These initial reports were to be followed up with expanded written reports. Blue Book was also given authority for direct communication with any installation in the U.S., thus cutting a lot of red tape and speeding up the investigations.
This AF regulation, unfortunately, was issued on the same day that Lifemagazine came out with a flying saucer story that reversed its previous attitude and considered the question soberly A lot of people added two and two and got six. The story went around that Life was "softening up the public for the truth" while the new Air Force regulation was "alerting the military." Actually, it was coincidence.
We obtained the cooperation of astronomers all over the country. Scores of them were queried on whether, in their constant watching the skies through giant telescopes, they had ever seen anything that resembled a space ship. The answer was no. There are also a number of stations across the U.S., where automatic cameras photograph the sky at intervals every night the year around to help track meteors. We asked these people if their cameras had ever caught anything that resembled a flying saucer. The answer was no. Both the astronomers and the sky-photographers were asked to notify the project if they ever turned up anything unusual. They never did.
We sent out eighty special cameras to places where there had been a high number of sightings in an effort to get pictures of our own. Each camera had two two lenses, one of which had a diffraction grid to split light into its component parts and thus give a clue to the source of the light - whether it was coming from a jet's tail, a balloon, or what? We had a lot of trouble with the cameras, and got only 5 or 6 pictures, all of which were worthless. The light-gathering power of the lenses was too low. The cameras have been re-equipped, and the Air Force recently has redistributed them.
We did not rely solely on our own resources in trying to unravel the UFO riddle. En Janvier 1952, le colonel Frank Dunn, alors chef de l'ATIC, décida que nous devrions engager plusieurs scientifiques bien qualifiés pour du conseil, afin de nous aider à rassembler certaines informations techniques, passer en revue les "inconnus" outstanding, to go over our conclusions and to suggest future courses of action. The names of these people have never been made public, and it is unlikely that they will be. The project learned early that publication of anyone's name in connection with the saucer stories brought on a deluge of mail, telephone calls and visits from cranks.
The invariable comment of scientists who examined the project's data was that they offered insufficient solid information for evaluation. Several hundred' people, of all different sorts, said they had seen something that they couldn't explain, under a wide variety of circumstances. Where did you go from there?
The new questionnaire and the Air Force came at a fortunate time - just before the enormous upsurge of sightings in 1952. By the end of the year we had a much better collection of data-both in quantity and quality-and we decided to summon a week-long conference of scientists to look it over and tell us what they thought.
They met early in 1953. Like our consultants, they cannot he named, and for the same reasons. But the group consisted of some of the nation's top people in astrophysics, operational research, intelligence, physics and psychology.
First we briefed them thoroughly on the operation of the project, on our methods of evaluation, on our conclusions and how we arrived at them. When we were through, they examined closely the "best" of the UFO cases that the project had been unable to explain. They viewed movies, looked at still photographs of "saucers" and heard reports from specialists on radar and photo-interpretation.
At the end of the week, they unanimously concluded that we had nothing that proved or even indicated-that any type of vehicle was violating U.S. air space. There was discussion that possibly some new natural phenomenon was causing some sightings, but this was rated doubtful.
On the possibility of emissaries from outer space, they made this statement:
"We as a group do not believe it is impossible for some other celestial body to be inhabited by intelligent creatures. Nor is it impossible that these creatures could have reached such a state of development that they could visit the earth. However, there is nothing in all the so-called "flying saucer" reports that would even vaguely indicate that this is taking place."
This group viewed-and rejected as proof of the existence of saucers - the controversial Tremonton movies.
These pictures were taken at 11: 10 am., July 2, 1952, a few miles out of Tremonton, Utah, by Warrant Officer Delbert Newbouse, a Navy photographer. He was driving in his car with his wife when they saw some white objects circling in the blue sky. Newhouse took out his camera, a 16 mm. Hell and Howell, and shot 40 feet of film. After he had the film developed, he sent it to Blue Hook for analysis.
I've sat through ninety-seven showings of the film. When I first saw it, I was impressed by it-and puzzled. It shows several groups of white spots orbiting against the blue Utah sky. There are no points of reference - only the moving spots and the sky. Near the end of the film, one of the spots moved away from the others, and Newhouse panned the camera along to follow it. When he turned back, he reported, the other spots had vanished.
I sent the film on to the Pentagon, where it was received by Maj. Dewey Fournet, liaison man for ATIC. Fournet, an excellent engineer, holds strongly to the theory that saucers are real and come from outer space. He has since left the service and is in private industry in Texas. He was tremendously excited with the movies. The movies were inspected by a group of high officers at the Pentagon and were sent back to Dayton for analysis by the Air Force photo laboratory. The lab examined them and reported that there was no evidence of fraud, and that the objects were not spherical balloons. It was the consensus of everyone who viewed the movies, incidentally, that they were not a hoax, that they showed something that Newhouse and his wife had seen. We decided to send them on to the Navy photo lab for further evaluation. They were taken there by Fournet, and I understand that he gave them quite a buildup to the Navy technicians.
The Navy subjected them to an intense analysis, involving thousands of man-hours of work, and came up with an astounding report. The gist of their evaluation was that the movie was authentic, and that the objects were not birds, balloons, planes, or anything earthly. They examined the film, frame by frame, and analyzed the density of light on each object. The reported that the objects appeared to be rotating in three groups, with each light increasing in brilliance, then decreasing, disappearing and returning as if spinning about an axis.
On the panel of scientists that inspected them later were some men with excellent reputations in the field of astronomical photo analysis. They viewed the movie a number of times, and questioned the Navy analysts closely about their methods of evaluation. They concluded that the Navy's method of measuring light density had been faulty, and that the conclusions drawn from it were therefore unsound. They suggested that the whole study be redone by new methods before the analysis be released.
Among the panel were a number of people who were convinced that the objects were sea gulls soaring on a thermal current. This theory also had been advanced by other persons familiar with gulls, who had seen the movie earlier. The ultimate decision of the experts was that the movie did not warrant the great time and expense of a second analysis.
At the time, I was doubtful of the gull explanation. But later, while in San Francisco on an investigation, I saw a group of gulls soaring on a bright day over the bay. I was astounded by the similarity between the sight before my eyes and the movie that I had seen almost 100 times.
The project received 3 other movies that got considerable attention. One, in color, was taken at Great Falls. Mont., and showed two bright spots of light speeding across the sky and passing behind a water tower. Two F-94s were in the area, and the lights could have been reflections of the sun on these jets, but we were not able to come to any definite conclusions.
The other two movies were made at the White Sands Proving Grounds with Askania Cine theodolites - scientific tracking cameras for following guided missiles. The first was made on April 27, 1950. Shortly after a missile was fired and had soared into the stratosphere and fallen, someone spotted an object in the sky. The theodolites were hooked up by an intercom system, and several stations were instructed to try to get pictures. Unfortunately, only one camera had film. The pictures showed a smudgy, dark object, not very well defined. It was moving.
On May 29, 1950, after word of the first picture had got around and the stations were more alert, another object was sighted just before a missile was to be fired. A second station was called, and they reported that they also could see the object visually. Both stations swung into action and took photos. On developing the film, it turned out that each was tracking a different object-bright dots of light-and again we had no triangulation. Whatever the dots were, they were impossible to evaluate.
As a result of these incidents, the Air Force set up "Project Twinkle," two Askanias to be manned 24 hours a day. The project was operated for a year and didn't get a picture. It was first set up in an area where there had been many "saucer" sightings, but as soon as it was in operation, the sightings stopped and we began to get a flock of sightings from another area about 100 miles away. After months of inaction, the Askanias were moved to that spot, whereupon the sightings stopped there and resumed at the original site.
When I told this story to a dedicated saucer fan later, he had an immediate explanation, "Of course," he said, "the saucers were watching you guys."
We were always on the lookout for "hardware"- any sort of tangible object that conceivably might have dropped, been wrenched or stolen from a saucer. We got a variety of things that people said had fallen from the sky and we had them all analyzed. Among them were some slag from Virginia, an aluminum mop handle from Washington, D. C., and a tar-covered marble from Illinois.
Once a Texan reported that something had flashed across the sky and plunged through the ice into a pond on his farm. Investigators went out with hollow tubes and probed into the ooze under the jagged hole in the ice. They sent me one sample of the cross section from their pipes that puzzled them. It turned out to be cow manure.
We naturally tended to give more credence to sightings from a group of witnesses than from a single observer. One person can have spots before his eyes or hallucinations, but they won't be seen by a friend. This elementary rule-of-thumb resulted in one saucer-sighter risking his happy home in an effort to convince us.
We got a report, from a town that is going to remain nameless, that a citizen was sitting in his car when it was buzzed by a flying saucer. We wrote back to the intelligence officer to whom the report was made and asked him if there was any corroboration, pointing out that an unsupported story was - an unsupported story.
"Look, mister," the citizen told the officer. "I'm not the only one who saw it. There was a woman with me, and she saw it too. The trouble is, she wasn't my wife." This was the lone case that we received of a saucer flying down Lovers' Lane.
Because of a run of saucer incidents that turned out to be balloons, we attempted to set up a system that would give us information on every balloon in the country. The complex project yielded some results, but explained only a small percentage of the unknowns.
We got flying saucer reports from a weird assortment of origins - an oil drum exploding in a city dump, paper plates caught in an updraft, bugs silhouetted against the sun. Birds flying over a well-lighted area, like an athletic field at night,. caused a lot of reports of "glowing objects."
We were always being collared by volunteer experts. Each non-believer always had some revolutionary theory that would explain away every saucer in the country. Invariably it was something that fifty other people had thought about years before. For some reason or other, there were a lot of military generals who "knew what the saucers are." They would tell us that each sighting was just a reflection on a plane's canopy, and then go into long stories about their own experiences with canopy reflections. Whenever we were badly outranked we would listen carefully and try to nod at the proper time.
About the fifteenth time that an earnest member of the brass started unveiling the canopy reflection theory, I rebelled.
"Look, sir," I said, "what about the thousands of sightings on the ground by people who don't have canopies?"
"Hmmm," mused the two-star theorist, "I never thought of that."
The variety of the UFO's, the many different circumstances under which they were sighted-in bright sunlight. at dusk, at night, from planes, from the ground, by radar, by groups of people-should have ruled out any attempts to explain them away by a single theory. But people kept trying.
Professor Donald H. Menzel, in a book entitled Flying Saucers-History, Myth, Facts, attempted a single explanation for the stubborn 20 percent of unknowns that the project could not account for. His theory was that "this mysterious residue consists of the rags and tags of meteorological optics: mirages, reflections in mist, refraction and reflections of ice crystals."
His explanation failed to account for the many cases where there was a simultaneous radar fix on a UFO and a visual sighting. Mirages and reflections can and do fool the naked eye, but they don't show up simultaneously on a radar scope.
On the one batch of spectacular UFO's that looked as if they ought to have a meteorological explanation, the explanation collapsed. These were the flock of green fireballs that appeared in the Southwest.
They caused considerable concern because they showed up in sizable numbers around the Atomic Energy Commission's vital installations at Los Alamos and Sandia. They all showed the same characteristics and were seen by hundreds of people, including a lot of topflight government technicians and scientists.
They were large, often described as big as the full moon, only brighter, and kelly-green in color. They traveled at terrific speeds at apparently low altitudes. One airline pilot flying west of Albuquerque swerved his plane, nearly throwing the passengers out of their seats, in his fear that he was going to collide with one. They began appearing in December 1948, and had their biggest night on December 5, when crews of both civilians and military aircraft and ground observers sighted them. They appeared sporadically afterward, and then vanished. I talked to many people who had seen the fireballs, and they must have been an impressive sight.
The obvious initial theory was that they were meteors, and that they had shown up in one section of the country by a fluke of the law of probability.
Le Dr. Lincoln La Paz, directeur de l'Institut de Météoritique à l'Université du Nouveau Mexique, s'opposa fermement à cette théorie. Il est l'une des plus grandes autorités au monde en matière de météorites — et il a vu les boules de lumière vertes. J'ai eu une longue discussion avec lui en juillet 1952, et il eut des raisons convaincantes :
I heard many reports that the copper content of the air in the New Mexico area showed a marked increase during the invasion of the weird green balls of fire. This was reported flatly as fact by a national magazine. We tried diligently, but were unable to authenticate this story.
On the green orbs, the project drew a blank, and the visitors to the Southwest remain a big question mark in the Blue Book files. But whatever the emerald mysteries were, they were a separate puzzle from the classic flying saucers. They had no characteristics in common with the silvery disks except that they flew.
As our experience in investigation broadened, we found that the reliability of saucer reports varied inversely with the detail that the observer reported. The hoaxes were almost always marked by a vivid description. When a witness could tell us exactly how many rivets the saucer had, we started checking his background.
One morning when we arrived at work we found an urgent telegram from a Military Air Transport Service base in Florida. It told about a scoutmaster who had been attacked by a saucer and burned. The incident had been witnessed by three scouts, and the local intelligence officer had made a quick check on the story and could find no holes in it. He reported that the scoutmaster had a good reputation for reliability, which of course was what you'd expect.
I showed the report to my superior at ATIC, Col. Frank Dunn, and he approved an on-the-scene investigation. In 20 minutes we had a B-25 ready with two pilots. I threw some things in a bag, got Lt. Robert Olssen, a Blue Book investigator, and we headed for Florida. Just before we left, we called Florida and asked t em to have a doctor examine the scoutmaster's burns.
We landed late in the afternoon and reviewed the case with the local intelligence officer. He was pretty well sold on the man's story. It was an exceptionally detailed account, and when I'd heard the whole thing, I smelled a hoax.
He said that he had conducted a scout meeting in the basement of a church, and at the id of the meeting started to drive four 0 the boys home. He dropped off one, and then headed for the nearby town where the other three lived. He took a back road that led through a sparsely settled area. This struck me as odd, but I checked the map and found that it was the logical route from the first scout's home to the town where they were going.
By this time, his story went, it was around 9 p.m. As they drove through a sandy section with scrub pine, he saw some Iights come down low into the trees and disappear. The scoutmaster's first thought was that a plane had made a crash Ianding. The boys didn't see the lights, but he told them about them and said he thought he ought to investigate. The boys were afraid to be left alone in the car, and he started to drive on when he peered back into the trees and saw something glowing. Thjs time the boys thought they saw it too. The scoutmaster decided that it was his duty to see if a plane was in trouble.
He had the radio on in his car, and a quarter-hour program was just starting. He told the boys to wait until the program was over, and if he hadn't returned, they were to go to a farmhouse a short way down the road and summon help. Taking a flashlight and a machete, he headed into the woods.
He stumbled through the night, keeping his light on the ground, until he came to a clearing a short distance from the road.
"I suddenly noticed something odd that frightened me," he said. "I felt a damp, muggy heat on my face. It did not feel natural. At the same time I smelled a faintly pungent odor.
"I stepped into the clearing and the heat and odor got worse. It felt like the radiation from a furnace. I glanced up to check the position of the North Star. It was a clear night and I had spotted the star when I left the auto, to orient myself. The whole sky was black.
"I was paralyzed with fear and turned my flashlight up. The beam shone on the bottom of something. It looked like battleship-gray linoleum. Whatever it was, it was so low I could have jumped up and hit it with my machete.
'I backed up until I could see the stars again. Then I flashed the light up again and could see the object plainly. It was about 30 feet in diameter, with things on the side like ventilators. The device was dome-shaped, with a slightly convex bottom. As I stepped back the heat diminished and I could feel the cool, fresh air on the back of my neck.
"Suddenly I had the strange feeling that something was watching me. From the saucer there came the sound of something moving, of metal against metal, like a safe door opening.
"A glowing red ball appeared and started to float down toward me. In a reflex action, I threw my arms up to protect my face, with my clenched fists over my eyes. I was engulfed in a red mist and lost consciousness."
Back on the road, the scouts grew frightened, piled out of the car and ran to the farmhouse for help. The farmer called the state police, who relayed the alarm to the sheriff. Two deputies arrived on the scene just as the scoutmaster came stumbling out of the woods.
"He had the most scared look I've ever seen," one of the deputies told me. The scoutmaster poured out his fantastic story to the deputies and then accompanied them back to the clearing. They found his flashlight on the ground, still burning, and a crushed place in the grass where someone had been lying.
The whole party went to the sheriff's office, where the scoutmaster was
examined. They found that the backs of both arms were scorched and that
the top of his cap-a long-visored fishing or skiing model-had been
scorched, too. They notified the Air Force.
We questioned the scoutmaster at length the evening after we arrived. He told a consistent story. When we got through, he asked if he could talk to anyone about the event, or should he keep buttoned up? "That's up to you," I told him. "The Air Force doesn't try to censor these stories."
We talked to his employer, who said he was a fine fellow. The next morning we went out to the scene and combed it foot by foot. The only theory we had was that he had been struck by lightning-possibly ball lightning-but there was no sign of lightning having struck the area.
We returned to the base and found it in an uproar. The scoutmaster had a lurid account in the local paper. He reported that "top Air Force officials from Washington" had questioned him. "The Air Force and I know what this thing was," he went on cryptically, "but I'm not allowed to tell because it would create a panic.
I looked at Olssen and Olssen looked at me. "Screwball," we said simultaneously.
The scoutmaster knew that we were from Dayton, not Washington, that we were a plain AF captain and a lieutenant, not "top officials," that we had offered no theory about the "saucer," and had told him he could talk freely. That afternoon we learned he had hired a press agent. That evening we did some intensive digging into his background, and the next day we flew back to Dayton.
We brought his hat back for a check at the lab. They reported the scorch marks were peculiar, as if they had been burned by a hot iron. There were folded areas that were not scorched at all. The lab expressed a strong doubt that the hat was on anyone's head when it was burned.
We sent out a few queries here and there, and found that he had a peculiar background for a scoutmaster. He had told a strange story about serving in the Marines in the Pacific, where he had landed alone on Jap-held islands and mapped them at night to make the Marine landings easier.
We queried the Marines and they told us that he had served six months and had never left the country. He had gone AWOL, got mixed up in a stolen auto case, had been kicked out of the corps and had served time. We checked the institution where he had done his term and learned that he was a somewhat unstable character, to put it charitably, given to spinning wild yarns. He reportedly had once told New York police he had seen two men hurl a woman out of a skyscraper and that the body had landed at his feet. Up sped a black limousine, he said, out jumped two other fellows who picked up the body, threw it in the back seat and roared off. The police went with him to the scene, and sure enough, there wasn't any body there. There wasn't any blood on the sidewalk, either.
We tipped off the Scout council and wrote off the story as a hoax. The fellow kept telling it, however, and it got better all the time. Within a month, the saucer had acquired an unspeakable monster, so foul that there were no words to describe it.
Later we had an even more fascinating "manned saucer" story from a radar station up near the Canadian border. Two radar men stepped out of their shack one night and were astounded to see a great glowing UFO low in the trees a few miles away. The generator that operated the radar set wasn't operating, and one of the men ran around to the Quonset hut to get it started.
While he was in the hut, the saucer flew up to the radar shack and halted, hovering in the air. A sliding door opened, and a little man, 4 feet high, came walking down some invisible steps. He was quite remarkable, even for a saucer crewman-he had two heads, one an old one and the other a young one. With proper respect for age, the young head let the old one do the talking.
"May I please have a drink of water?" the elderly head asked the radar operator.
The man stammered out that they had no water, which subsequent investigation indeed proved to be the truth. The old head thanked him politely, and the creature mounted the invisible steps and reentered the saucer, which flew back to its original position among the trees. A little later the radar pair pointed it out to several other people, all of whom saw it clearly. The other witnesses, however, insisted that it was merely the moon.
A formal report was filed on this and forwarded to Dayton. We were still puzzling over it when we got a terse supplementary notation from the local intelligence officer who had interrogated the men. Behind the radar shack he had found two cases of empty beer bottles. "Please ignore original report," he wrote. "Disciplinary action has been taken."
In general, we didn't pay much attention to the reports that involved saucer crews, whether they were little men, indescribable monsters, or spacemen with junior and senior heads. Once West Virginia came up with a report of a metallic monster that blew poison gas at some children. We got an urgent telephone call from the local newspaper asking us when we would be down to investigate. I took the call.
"Has the monster got a saucer?" I asked the reporter.
"Well, there's talk about some lights seen landing in the vicinity, but no one has located anything."
I asked him how the monster got around, whether he walked or flew.
"The stories say he's been crashing through the underbrush," the reporter said, "so I guess he's walking."
"If he walks, he's an Army problem," I said. "Call me back if he starts to fly."
We never got a call, and the monster crashed off into one of the Sunday supplements.
The saucers hit the front pages in 96-point type in July, 1952, when they "buzzed" Washington, D. C. The story caught the Air Force completely off balance and the handling of it got fouled up beyond all recognition. It finally took a couple of generals and a press conference to straighten things out.
It started shortly after nine o'clock Saturday night, July 19, when the Air Route Traffic Control Center of the Washington National Airport noticed some odd targets on their radar scope. They seemed to be the shape and size of aircraft, but they didn't fly right. They would cruise around aimlessly at from 100 to 130 mph and then suddenly vanish - "in a burst of speed," the saucer Boswells added later, in dressing up the story. Shortly before midnight, the National Airport controllers called BoIling Air Force Base, just across the Potomac, and asked if they had anything strange on their radar. BoIling also was picking up strange targets. About this time Andrews AFB chimed in and reported that they had some unknown objects on their scopes, too. Boiling, Washington National and Andrews are all tied together in a common communications net, and they started comparing notes over the squawk box.
Once, at a point close to the Andrews range, where the three radar systems overlapped, they all picked up what seemed to be the same target. Several people at Andrews were alerted and spotted a big orange-red object hovering just about where radar had it.
Washington National called all commercial aircraft in the area and asked them to look for lights that they couldn't identify as other aircraft. At 3:15 a.m., Capital Airlines Flight 807 reported seven lights between Washington and Martinsburg, W. Va.-a section where some of the mysterious blips had shown on the scopes. The captain of the airliner, a man with seventeen years' flying experience, described the lights as hovering awhile and then moving up and down. Shortly later a Capitol-National flight approaching Washington from the south reported that a light had followed them to within four miles of the airport.
At 4 a.m. an F-94 all-weather jet fighter was flown into the area and combed it thoroughly and could find nothing.
The location of this flareup - practically over the White House - plus the radar angle and the fact that a fighter had been scrambled combined to make this story big news. The radar aspects in particular impressed the newspapers and the wire services, and the case was played up as the first time that "saucers" had been spotted by radar. All over the country people said, "They must be real if radar picks them up." The night fighter roaring aloft to chase saucers away from Capitol Hill was the final touch.
Actually, radar is as tricky as the imagination of a scared youngster alone in the house at midnight. There are a number of ways radar can pick up objects that simply aren't there. An inversion layer in the air will bend the radar beam and cause it to interfere with another radar station that ordinarily is out of range. Or inversion will cause the scanning station to pick up ground targets - such as a big truck. On the night the saucers "buzzed Washington" there was a temperature inversion and all the sets were getting weather blips. The fact that three of them showed a blip at the same spot didn't necessarily mean a thing. They all showed blips wherever they were turned.
When we talked to the men at Andrews who had seen the orange-red object they had already figured out that it was a planet. The fact that a fighter had been sent up was not at all unusual. It is standard procedure whenever the Air Defense Command gets a target that they can't identify over a "sensitive" area. That's heir job. We couldn't account for the airline sightings, and listed them as unknown.
But by the time we had pieced all this together, the Washington saucer story was a couple of days old, the papers were back on politics and hardly anyone was interested in a complex explanation of just why an exciting story hadn't been true. This time lag was a real drawback in keeping the public informed about the evaluations of the project. Someone out in Seattle or San Antonio or What Cheer, Iowa, would report a saucer and the local paper would call us up and ask, "How about this? What was it, anyway?" We'd tell them, in all honesty, "We don't know. We haven't been able to make our evaluation yet." The story would hit the paper's front page the next day under the headline:
PREACHER SEES SAUCER AIR FORCE CAN'T EXPLAIN
Just one week after the saucers buzzed Washington, they came back and buzzed it again - and again we stubbed our toe on the story. The reporters got word of the story and hurried to the airport. This time the all-weather fighters were called down right away. Commercial traffic was cleared out of the area and things were set up to work an "intercept." Here the trouble began; some of the procedures used in the situation are classified, so the reporters were shooed out of the radar room. Everyone was excited, and the reporters were bewildered by the sudden bum's rush. They knew that "something" had been spotted over the capital again, and pretty soon they heard our jets roaring up and down through the night-while something big went on behind firmly closed doors. The next day the papers broke out with 120-point bold headline type:
SAUCERS ELUDE 600 MPH JETS
Which was, after all, accurate in its way. The jets had been unable to find anything over Washington. They would be directed to the spots where the "saucer" blips showed on the radar and fly right through them. This was merely confirmation of what we'd learned the week before, that the blips were radar abberations.
The big black headlines were on every news rack in Washington when the Pentagon got a call from the White House asking just exactly what was going on. White House calls were ordinarily handled by at least a three-star general, but in this case a captain-Ruppelt - was given the honor of explaining what was going on over the head of the President. I think there was something in the tone of the query that downgraded the assignment to my level. I made a reassuring report to Mr. Truman's air aide. Later I was told that the President was listening in on the briefing, but he didn't let out a peep.
The scare stories in the Washington press came smack in the middle of a record wave of saucer sightings. The year 1952 had started modestly with eleven sightings in January and built up steadily to 149 in June. This was almost as many as the project normally received in an entire year. While we were digging our way out from under the unprecedented June reports. July inundated us with 409. The two summer months produced as many sightings as the first four years of the Age of the Saucer. We went on a 16-hour day.
"I wonder," said Olssen, "what ever happened to the guys who said the saucers would go away as soon as people stopped talking about Kenneth Arnold?"
Prodded by the hubbub over the Washington flare-up and by the record crop of sigbtings, l'Air Force annonca une conférence de presse le 29 juillet au Pentagone. Le major-général John A. Samford, directeur du renseignement de l'Air Force, arriva face au plus grand assemblage de journalistes ayant jamais eu pour une conférence de l'Air Force depuis la 2nde guerre mondiale. Il est accompagné du major-général Roger Ramey, directeur des opérations, et de 4 techniciens de l'ATIC - le colonel Donald Bower, le capitaine Roy James, Burgoyne Griffing et moi-même.
Samford donne une tape dans le dos du projet pour avoir éliminé beaucoup d'inconnus, mais ajoute :
Cependant, il est resté un pourcentage de ce total - près de 20 % des rapports - venu d'observateurs crédibles de choses incroyables. Nous restons préoccupés par ceux-ci. He stressed that the most careful examination of the reports indicated no menace to the United States.
The press was much more interested in the "saucers over Washington" angle and fired dozens of questions about that incident, concentrating on the radar "confirmation." It seemed to be news to many of them that radar is not infallible, that it is not a crystal-clear mirror that gives back exactly what is in front of it.
Many of the newsmen were amazed that a big "naval battle" had been fought in World War II with a nonexistent enemy because of tricks played by radar. The conference also brought out the fact that a fighter pilot, following a radar "target" caused by a temperature inversion, once had followed the bend of the image four times and found himself flying right at the ground. These incidents took a lot of the edge off the capital saucer sensation.
I never got adjusted to the tremendous partisanship that the flying saucers inspired. Hardly anyone was neutral about saucers. People would bend our ears by the hour proving: (1) Saucers were a lot of damned nonsense and the Air Force was out of its mind to bother with investigating them, or (2) They were spaceships whose existence was beyond question and the Air Force was out of its mind to try to cover up the truth about them.
Both groups would wind up fixing us with a stern glare and demanding-"What do you think?"
I would tell them that we were trying to conduct an open-minded investigation, and that so far we didn't have sufficient data for a firm conclusion. This would just pour gasoline on the fire. People wanted a firm yes or no" about the saucers.
We had our most bitter arguments with the "fans," as we called the believers. They believed in saucers with a passion that made a reasonable discussion almost hopeless.
Once I talked to a well-known psychiatrist about this. He was a non-believer.
"Look," I said, "I can understand how a man like Arnold feels strongly about the existence of saucers. He saw some-thing. I can understand why anyone who has seen something that he can't explain will argue for the existence of space ships. Such a theory gives him an answer to a personal riddle. But why do thousands of people who have never seen a saucer swear that they exist?"
"I think they want to believe in saucers from another planet," he said. "The will-to-believe is a powerful thing, and it edits out reality. Visitation from another planet is a fascinating idea.
"The world we live in is becoming a place of increasingly unbearable tensions. The threat of atomic destruction hangs over us all, and we are losing faith in the invincible intelligence of man. In eight long years, the best brains on earth have frustrated each other in removing the spectre of mass destruction of whole nations. "If the saucers were real, if they came from outer space, what vistas they would open up! So far they have shown no menace. Whatever controlled them would be of a higher intelligence, since we are only beginning to fumble with the problem of space travel.
So to people living humdrum and menaced lives, they hold out bright adventure that might remake the world. Man is doing a poor job, so we bring into being something better than man.
En plusieurs des simples croyants, il y avait les cultists et les excentriques. Les cultists avaient des clubs, sociétés, associations, badges, conventions et publications spéciales, et préchaient la soucoupe comme un musulman dévot prêche sa croyance en Allah.
Selon leur dogme inébranlable, l'Air Force cache la vérité sur les soucoupes de peur de paniquer le public. Des chambres-fortes secrètes à Dayton débordant d'observations sensationnelles, d'authentiques photos de près et de merveilleux films de soucoupes, dont beaucoup en Kodachrome. Chaque fois qu'une soucoupe atterrit ou s'écrase, des équipes d'enquêteurs tight-lipped rush out, scoop up the saucer or the pieces et le cart it off dans un laboratoire secret. Dans le même temps leurs collègues se précipitent dans les journaux, montrent leurs badges au rédacteur-en-chef et anéantissent l'histoire.
Tout le monde sait que le capitaine Mantell a été descendu par une soucoupe géante — son corps était riddled de balles (version A) et son avion was scored with mystérieuses "lignes de force" (version B). Le projet a Dayton a des salles pleines de petits hommes, marinant dans l'alcool, qui ont atterri dans le Colorado ou l'Arizona ou l'Oregon et sont morts en respirant notre oxygène inhabituel. Généralement les petits hommes sont verts, bien que certains aient été cuits jusqu'à un brun croquant lorsque notre atmosphère a transformé leur soucoupe en un toaster incandescent.
Les soucoupes qui ne transportent pas de petits hommes sont pilotées par des monstres. Et pas de questions, s'il-vous-plait, pour savoir si les petits hommes et les monstres sont des frères de sang ou de simples cousins.
Chaque élément de ce catalogue d'absurdités a été raconté comme la stricte vérité.
Le culte est nourri par un petit groupe de literary procurers se saisissant de toute observation et la traitant pour être consommée. Ils dépouillent tout signalement de toute information orientant vers une explication naturelle. Ils drop off all qualifying data. Ils omettent l'analyse — sauf lorsque le projet admet franchement être dérouté. Puis ils présentent le résidu comme un fait vérifié sorti droit des fichiers de Blue Book. Une variante populaire de ceci est sorti des archives de l'Air Force.
Dans les scriptures of the cultist, toute chose signalée à Blue Book est une soucoupe. Le signalement effectif pourrait décrire l'ovni comme une lumière de 6 pouces de diamètre, une boule de 2 fois la taille de la Lune, un point noir dans le ciel, un blip étrange sur un écran radar, un objet en forme de cône, une vague lueur dans le ciel, un figure en forme de cigare, ou un éclat de lumière comme la queue d'une comète. Ces objets dissemblables sont tous convertis, en une chiquenaude de machine à écrire, en soucoupes.
Toutes les estimations d'altitude, de vitesse et de manoeuvres sont traitées comme cold fact. Si un voyageur de commerce, roulant le long d'une route à 65 miles/h, regarde en l'air et voir quelque chose traverser le ciel à ce qu'il suppose être 20 miles de haut et 8000 miles à l'heure, le récit soucoupique sort comme ceci :
A 15 h 17, le 12 août 1953, à 4 miles à l'ouest de Dubuque, dans l'Iowa, Joseph Doakes, un homme d'affaires, vit une soucoupe voyageant à 8000 miles/h à 20 miles au-dessus du sol. Doakes, un homme d'excéllente réputation qui ne boit pas, rapporta, "Je n'ai jamais rien vu de tel." L'Air Force analysa l'observation et fut totalement déroutée.
Il y a quelques mois, à Hollywood, je parlais avec Frank Scully dont le livre Behind the Flying Saucers went through ten editions and sent a shining, silvery chain of disc-shaped dollars spinning at supersonic speeds into Scully's bank account. I was ribbing him about a couple of Southern California characters who were outdoing each other-and Scully-with fantastic saucer stories. One wrote a book about a citizen from Venus who landed his saucer in the California desert and had a long conversation with the author. Character No. Two topped that one with a yarn about riding on a saucer to a hitherto unknown planet named Clarion, whose female residents presumably are known as Clarionettes.
Scully, the staid old scientist who first put the story of the "little men from the saucers" between book covers, was appalled at such "irresponsible stories." He complained bitterly about "the lunatic fringe invading the saucer business," which gives a rough idea of the prevailing standards. The cultists are nearing the limits imposed by the law of diminishing returns. About the only sensation left for an author trying to break into the racket is to have his book delivered by little green men riding bona fide saucers with Venusian license plates.
The cultists watched the operation of Blue Book like suspicious wives eyeing wayward husbands. Everything that we did-or failed to do-had significance. If we investigated a flamboyant "little men" hoax, it was because we knew there are little men and were trying to keep the secret bottled up. If we ignored the story, we were playing a shrewd game of poker and cloaking the truth with a show of contempt. The cultists even used to analyze our facial expressions at press conferences. I usually made a "bland show of unconcern."
Once one of the project's technical advisers made the mistake of lapsing into mild satire in his report. In considering the saucers-from-space theory, he noted that there had been speculation that some of the UFO's behaved like animals. 'There are few reliable reports," he commented dryly, "of extraterrestrial animals." This quip was pounced on by the cult as an enormously significant slip-up in our great conspiracy to hide the truth, and became an "official Air Force admission that some of the saucers carried beings from outer space." Raymond Palmer, a science-fiction publisher, and Kenneth Arnold, in their book The Coming of the Saucers, reprint this passage and exult: "But those lew, gentlemen! Those few! Where did you get them?"
Such experiences tended to make us cautious in our public announcements, and we tiptoed on verbal eggs. This, of course, was taken by the cultists to be further evidence of Operation Cover-up.
The saucer project attracted screw-balls in droves. On gentleman, who was a plasterer through the week and the shepherd for some off-beat religious sect on Sunday, telephoned me incessantly until I gave him an appointment. He was a tall, hollow-eyed fellow who looked like an undertaker down on his luck. A sister in his flock had solved the riddle of the saucers. She had it all written out, with citations from the Bible as documentation, and he clutched the historic document tightly and kept a wary eye on me. All he wanted for it was $15,000 cash.
I told him, as gently as possible, that the government didn't hand out that kind of money for a saucer in the poke.
"All right, mister," he said, "I'll tell you what the saucers are. But you'll have to put the cash on the barrelhead to find out how Sister Betty figured it out."
He took a deep breath. "The saucers are four angels dancing in a circle."
He grew surly when I didn't haul out a roll of crisp $100 bills, fresh from the U.S. Treasury, and start counting them out for him.
"What's the matter, mister?" he asked. "Doesn't the Air Force want to solve this problem?"
I got off the hook by telling him that our budget had been cut and that he could make more with Sister's secret peddling it to one of the big national magazines. He went off with a gleam in his eye.
Then there were the letters. They went into a special file with the cryptic notation "C. P."-for crackpot. We got them by the hundreds.
From Campbell, Ohio, a gentleman offered us "spectrograms of saucer lights"-at a price-and warned us that he was selling "to the highest bidder, domestic or foreign." "These spectrograms are protected against forceable seizure," he noted tersely, "and I would not recommend such action on your part."
From Long Beach, Calif., a woman wrote us a long series of letters about saucers "touching" her day and night. "They also nip your toes," she complained. "They just make you sick."
My favorite was from a gentleman who signed himself "Uncle Sam's Most Unique Booster." He offered us three working saucers in exchange for train fare from California to Dayton. "I fly them by changing the potential energy in centrifugal force to a kinetic energy of 33 pounds to the square inch in the form of a jet propulsion," he wrote. "Roll that around your attic." His saucers were powered by vacuum cleaner motors. If we weren't interested in them, he had an atomic machine "that makes yours look sick," and a helicopter that folded up into a suitcase.
Obscured by the hoaxes, distorted by the literary charlatans who hail every vagrant light as a verified space ship, the case for the flying saucer rests on the inexplicable instances that have cropped up year after year since 1947.
In 1952, we extracted the best sightings from the files to see what kind of sense we could make from them. These represented the cream of the reports and most of them had come through military channels. This meant that they either had been made by military personnel or had undergone a preliminary check at the point of origin.
Of the 2,199 sightings, 434-19.7 percent-were listed as unknown. Among them were sightings reported by scientists and veteran pilots of excellent reputation, many of whom had been scornful disbelievers until they had sighted their saucers. These reports included instances of flight performance and maneuvers be-bond the abilities of any known craft.
In addition to the Black Hills, South Dakota, case which I've already described, here are some of the cases that the project was unable to crack:
INCIDENT NO. 2-On July 29, 1952, near Port Huron, Mich., two F-94s were in the air making night practice runs on a B-25. A radar station in the vicinity picked up an unknown object and asked one of the planes to investigate. The jet went up to 20,000 feet where the pilot spotted the object visually. He started to chase it, and the fleeing UFO and the pursuing jet both showed up on the radar scope, which tracked the chase. The jet pilot switched on his gun radar, got an automatic lock-on. The object easily kept out in front of the jet, even when the pilot kicked on his afterburner. Our investigation showed that there were no other planes in the vicinity, and the double radar verification ruled out planets, stars, reflections, hallucinations.
INCIDENT NO. 3~n July 24, 1952, two Air Force colonels stationed at the Pentagon were en route in a B-25 from Hamilton AFB to Colorado Springs. They were flying at 11,000 feet near Carson Sink, Nev. It was 3:40 p.m. on a calm, clear day with unlimited visibility. Suddenly they sighted three silver objects shaped like arrowheads approaching them at terrific speed. The objects first appeared at the 1 o'clock position and passed the B-25 in a continuous bank. The two colonels both observed the three strange objects carefully and were positive that they were no craft that they had ever seen before. They estimated their size at about that of an F-86, and their distance at the point of passage at between 400 and 800 yards. Both men reported that the objects had a "definite ridge along the top," and had sharply defined outlines. Neither man was a flying saucer believer.
INCIDENT NO. 4-On January 28, 1953, at 9:35 p.m., a jet pilot near Albany, Ga., spotted "an extremely bright light" at 10 o'clock high. At first he thought it was another aircraft or an unusually bright star, but when he went up to 10,000 feet it appeared to be ahead and a bit below him. When first spotted, the light was white, but later it began changing constantly from white to orange and back to white. The object was in view for 17 minutes. In the last 15 seconds it changed shape from circular to triangular, and then the triangles split into two triangles-one immediately above the other-and both disappeared as if someone snapped off a light.
The pilot called Albany, Ga., but before he could make his amazed report, ground asked him if he had seen anything unusual. They advised him that ground radar had picked up both his jet and a strange target. On the radar scope, when the jet had speeded up, the target had stepped up, too, to maintain its lead on him.
INCIDENT NO. 5-Shortly before midnight on August 5, 1952, two airmen were walking toward the tower at Haneda AFB in Japan to begin their shift when they spotted a large round object bearing a light in the sky. Hurrying to the tower, they pointed it out to the other tower operators, and they took turns observing the object through 7x50 binoculars. Under the glasses, a less brilliant light could be seen around the edge of the object. The tower people called radar and gave them a bearing on the thing, and radar picked up a target in the immediate area. By correlating movement of the radar target and the visual UFO, they established that they were both observing the same object. The radar tracked the object at speeds varying from hovering to 300 knots. An F-94 was scrambled and vectored into the target. It got a radar lock-on and started to close on the object. At 6,000 yards, the jet lost radar contact and at the same time the tower and ground radar lost it, too. At the end of the sighting, the object as seen on the ground radar "broke up into three pieces which flew formation at quarter-mile intervals." During the incident, a weather balloon was released at the base, and the witnesses reported that its light was much dimmer than that of the UFO. One of the puzzling aspects of the incident was that neither the jet pilot nor the radar crew was able to get a visual sighting on the object, although each was closer to it than the air base tower.
INCIDENT NO. 6-On the night of January 26, 1953, a group of Air Force people stationed at a radar site in New Mexico observed a "very bright, reddish-white" object west of their station and then picked it up on their radar. The object was in view for 45 minutes both visually and by radar and once moved behind a hill and then reappeared. Radar showed it 9 miles from the station, traveling north at a lazy 12 to 15 knots, at 10,000 to 15,000 feet. Although a balloon was in the vicinity, the UFO traveled steadily almost directly into the wind.
INCIDENT NO. 7~n February 16, 1953, at 11:30p.m., a pilot and an instructor in a C-47 over Turnagain Arm - bay near Anchorage, Alaska-saw a red light that they judged to be a jet aircraft, five miles away. But as they watched it, it got bigger and brighter, as if headed toward them. Unable to see any green navigation light, they asked the tower at Elmendorf AFB if any other craft were in the area. The tower said there was none, and then made a radar check with negative results. The object was first seen low and definitely below the horizon. The C-47 was flying at 2,000 feet. The object continued to close on the C-47, increasing in brilliance and size until it was two or three times the original size. Then it seemed to stop and hang suspended for five minutes. The pilots, still thinking it might be another aircraft, headed toward Elmendorf, where the tower asked them if they still could see the light. It was still visible, and the tower asked them to try to intercept it. As the C47 took up the chase, the light appeared to accelerate and shortly vanished.
The following night, about 8 p.m., five Air Police on patrol spotted the same-or another-red light near the end of one of the Elmendorf runways. By comparing it with known lights at the base, they judged it to be similar to a 36-inch light seen from ~/s mile away. It was in a gradual climb, at about jet speed, headed for Anchorage. The Air Police called the tower. It had nothing on radar, but ordered up a jet to intercept. As the jet became airborne, the object showed a noticeable increase in speed, and when the jet came around to get on an intercept course, the light climbed vertically into the overcast at 5,500 feet.
The Air Police did not know of the original sighting when they made their report. A careful check showed no balloons in the area. Stars and planets were eliminated because the first night the.object was below the horizon, and the second night there was a solid overcast. If it had been a conventional craft, the radar should have picked it up. If it had been a stray balloon that wandered in from some distance, on the first night the C-47 should easily have closed on it and passed it. On the second night, its sudden vertical rise disposed of the drifting balloon theory.
These cases, and the hundreds more like them, are the core of the flying saucer mystery. Despite our best efforts over a period of seven years-assisted by top-grade technical and scientific advisers-we were unable to crack them. They remain to baffle and intrigue millions. And despite the improvement in methods of analysis that has resulted from our experience, scores of unknowns are added fo the project's files each year.
Hundreds of people have asked me, "What do you think, yourself?"
The job of~roject Blue Book was fact-finding, not speculation. Our investigation of the saucer sightings was aimed at compiling as much firm data as we could, in the hope that it would provide the basis for analysis that would answer the seven-year mystery. The project failed in this attempt. The mystery of the saucers is still as baffling as it was the day that Kenneth Arnold landed his plane and told the story of what he had seen near Mt. Rainier.
My own opinion is that either the saucers are interplanetary or they do not exist. I do not believe that there is enough evidence at hand to choose between these alternatives. You can argue either case indefinitely, and in the end you will have only an opinion.
In the operation of Blue Book, we briefed a number of assemblies of scientists-guided missile experts, atomic people, experimental aircraft technicians, physicists, etc. We found them intensely interested in the saucer mystery. At Los Alamos, for example, we jammed an amphitheater with standees and answered questions for three hours after we concluded our briefing.
These people were trained in the scientific attitude, as opposed to the cultists who accept every wild-eyed report as a certified, gold-seal fact. Among them were people who had seen things that they could not explain. They were eager for facts that would help them put their experience into perspective.
These are the facts upon which I think that any responsible conclusion about them must be based:
I. To my knowledge, the Air Force has not concealed any secret sensations about the saucers. In the earliest days of the investigation, the project was secret. There was considerable alarm then, and some officials thought that the objects might be something new from Russia. As the alarm waned, the information was declassified. Whatever secrecy has been thrown around subsequent incidents has been only to protect classified information-precise locations of radar stations, performance data on jet fighters, etc. We also protected the identity of informants who wished to remain anonymous. We did this to encourage people of standing to feel free to report any incredible incident. Reyond these exceptions, the Air Force knows nothing about the subject that it is not telling.
2. Project Blue Book was given no orders from above about "handling the saucer problem." The story that we were a bunch of dupes, reciting whatever the top echelons told us to say, is a lot of nonsense. We briefed the echelons above us, not vice versa. I once made a personal report to Secretary for Air Thomas Fin-letter at the Pentagon. He was accompanied by a full squad of advisers and technicians. He thanked me when I was through.! gave him no information that is not in this account.
3. We had no evidence whatever that the saucers are some supersecret U. S. development. On the contrary, we had specific disclaimers of this from top Air Force, Army, Navy and Department of Defense officials. Ordinary horse sense is against this theory. If the U.S. has flying saucers that can perform the way saucersighters describe them, why would the government be pouring billions of dollars into conventional - and inferior -planes?
4. We also had no evidence that the saucers are of foreign manufacture. Again, logic opposes such a belief. The chief suspect in the "foreign saucer" theory is Russia. Why would Russia try out such a revolutionary device over the U. S. when it has vast stretches of land behind the Iron Curtain, where the test could be conducted in complete secrecy? Any man-made device is certain to fail sooner or later. The more complex the device, the higher the failure probability. Yet in seven years, with thousands of saucer sightings, not one has been known to have crashed.
These four points may bring you to the possibility that the saucers are craft from outer space. As staggering as the implications may be, to my mind this is the most acceptable theory-if the saucers exist. There is no other alternative.
What is the argument that they are nonexistent? It has some stubborn facts on its side.
First, the residue of unknowns shows no common characteristics. Their shapes, performances, times of appearance, colors, locations showed the same bewildering variety as the 80 percent that we were able to explain. The 434 unknowns included little lights, big lights, multicolored lights, discs seen by day, cigar shapes, orbs and dots of lights. To argue that the hard core of unknowns are all "saucers is inaccurate. They include a variety of dissimilar objects. This variety gives strength to the theory that the unknowns are merely the same known objects as the 80 % of sightings we were able to explain. There is a strong belief in the Air Force that the unknowns are "unknown" only because we lacked sufficient data on them. This belief is supported by the fact that our percentage of explanations rose with the intensity of our investigation.
Secondly, there were no bursts of unknowns. Over the years, they roughly followed the total number of sightings, rising and falling with the volume of reports. In general, there was no geographic clustering of unknowns. For a time, there were more sightings around certain atomic installations and defense areas. This concentration was not large enough, in our opinion, to have significance. Residents of such areas are more security conscious than people living in a nonsensitive area, and quite possibly we got more sightings from atomic and defense sections because more people there were scanning the skies.
Some theorists have figured that another planet sending emissaries to the earth would dispatch them at the point where their orbit would bring them closest to earth. Assuming a set travel time, this would bring their craft into our ken at a regular time. For several years there was a sharp rise in saucer reports during the month of July. But in 1953, the sightings in the month took a sharp drop.
Thirdly, in the seven years there has been no physical evidence of the existence of saucers. The Air Force has found no evidence that a saucer has ever crashed or landed. It has seen no photographic evidence that it can credit. It has seen no "hardware" that it cannot explain as man-made.
Against these arguments stands the testimony of hundreds of people. They have seen something incredible. They indude hundreds of people who scoffed at flying saucers until they saw something that bore no relation to anything they had ever seen. They include hard-bitten airmen familiar with all the hallucinations of flying, sober scientists who applied every natural explanation - and stubbornly insisted, "It was something else."
Among these sightings have been a small number that have been confirmed by radar. Whatever the object was, it was not hallucination. And frequently, it outperformed any craft known on earth.
The fact that the unknowns show a variety of shapes and sizes might be explained by 2 things. One is the unreliability of witnesses. A saucer described as '50 feet in diameter" may be 150 feet -if it is farther from the observer than he believes. The variety in sizes of the unknowns could be explained by misjudgments in distance, a common error. If more accurate data were available, the unknowns might well show a greater consistency in size.
The same is true of shapes. A disc traveling broadside to the witness would appear to be an orb. As. its angle tilted, it would become football-shaped and finally take on the appearance of a cigare.
The sightings of lights at night may have no relevance to the actual size of be craft that carries them-just as a navigation light on a plane gives no hint to the size of the ship.
The absence of physical evidence-such as crashed saucers-supports the theory that they are not of this world. We have reliable data on the failure actor of man-made devices. If the saucers were made by Americans or Russians, their imperfections would have brought them down by now. But if they re interplanetary, they may be contrived by a civilization so far advanced as to have reduced the probability of failure to near zero. Or they may utilize a principle of flight unknown to us. A craft capable of traversing the vast distances of space might fly almost endlessly in the relatively tiny confines of our air envelope without failure.
The Air Force has never ruled out the possibility that we are being visited from outer space. It says only that it has no evidence to support this possibility.
- Capitaine Edward J. Ruppelt, USAFR
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