by Donald Keyhoe
New York, Fawcett Publications, 1950
To Helen, with love
Donald E. Keyhoe, who relates here his investigation of the flying saucers,
writes with twenty-five years of experience in observing aeronautical
He is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis. He flew in
active service with the Marine Corps, managed the tour of the historic
plane in which Bennett and Byrd made their North Pole flight, was aide to
Charles Lindbergh after the famous Paris flight, and was chief of
information for the Aeronautics Branch, Department of Commerce.
ON APRIL 27, 1949, the U.S. Air Force stated:
“The mere existence of some yet unidentified flying objects necessitates a
constant vigilance on the part of Project ‘Saucer’ personnel, and on the part
of the civilian population.
“Answers have been–and will be–drawn from such factors as guided
missile research activity, balloons, astronomical phenomena. . . . But there
are still question marks.
“Possibilities that the saucers are foreign aircraft have also been
considered. . . . But observations based on nuclear power plant research
in this country label as ‘highly improbable’ the existence on Earth of
engines small enough to have Powered the saucers.
“Intelligent life on Mars . . . is not impossible but is completely unproven.
The possibility of intelligent life on the Planet Venus is not considered
completely unreasonable by astronomers.
“The saucers are not jokes. Neither are they cause for alarm.”
On December 27, 1949, the Air Force denied the existence of flying
On December 30, 1949, the Air Force revealed part of a secret Project
“Saucer” report to members of the press at Washington. The official report
“It will never be possible to say with certainty that any individual did not see
a space ship, an enemy missile, or some other object.”
Discussing the motives of possible visitors from space, the report also
“Such a civilization might observe that on Earth we now have atomic
bombs and are fast developing rockets. In view of the past history of
mankind, they should be alarmed. We should therefore expect at this time
above all to behold such visitations.”
(In its April 22 report, Project “Saucer” stated that space travel outside the
solar system is almost a certainty.)
On February 22, 1950, the Air Force again denied the existence of flying
saucers. On this same date, two saucers reported above Key West Naval
Air Station were tracked by radar; they were described as maneuvering at
high speed fifty miles above the earth. The Air Force refused to comment.
On March 9, 1950, a large metallic disk was pursued by F-51 and jet
fighters and observed by scores of Air Force officers at Wright Field, Ohio.
On March 18, an Air Force spokesman again denied that saucers exist
and specifically stated that they were not American guided missiles or
I have carefully examined all Air Force saucer reports made in the last
three years. For the past year, I have taken part in a special investigation
of the flying-saucer riddle.
I believe that the Air Force statements, contradictory as they appear, are
part of an intricate program to prepare America–and the world–for the
secret of the disks.
1. Project “Saucer” Preliminary Study of Flying Saucers.
2. Air Force Press Release 629-49.’
The Flying Saucers Are Real, by Donald Keyhoe, 1950
It was a strange assignment.
I picked up the telegram from my desk and read it a third time.
NEW YORK, N. Y., MAY 9, 1949
HAVE BEEN INVESTIGATING FLYING SAUCER MYSTERY. FIRST TIP
HINTED GIGANTIC HOAX TO COVER UP
OFFICIAL SECRET. BELIEVE IT MAY HAVE BEEN PLANTED TO HIDE
REAL ANSWER. LOOKS LIKE TERRIFIC
STORY. CAN YOU TAKE OVER WASHINGTON END?
KEN W. PURDY, EDITOR, TRUE MAGAZINE
I glanced out at the Potomac, recalling the first saucer story. As a pilot, I’d
been skeptical of flying disks.
Then reports had begun to pour in from Air Force and airline pilots.
Apparently alarmed, the Air Force had ordered fighters to pursue the fastflying
saucers. In one mysterious chase, a pilot had been killed, and his
death was unexplained. That had been seventeen months ago. Since then,
the whole flying-saucer riddle had been hidden behind a curtain of Air Force secrecy.
And now, an assignment from True magazine on flying saucers. Twentyfour
hours later, I was in Ken Purdy’s office.
“I’ve had men on this for two months,” he told me. “I might as well warn you,
it’s a tough story to crack.”
“You think it’s a Russian missile?” I asked him. “Or an Air Force secret?”
“We’ve had several answers. None of them stacks up. But I’m positive one
was deliberately planted when they found we were checking.”
He told me the whole story of the work that had been done by the staff of
True and of the reports sent in by competent writers. The deeper he delved
into the mystery, the tougher the assignment got. The more I learned about
flying saucers, the less I knew.
“There’s one angle I want rechecked,” Purdy said.
“You’ve heard of the Mantell case?”
“O.K. Try to get the details of Mantell’s radio report to Godman Tower.
Before he was killed, he described the thing he was chasing–we know that
much. Project ‘Saucer’ gave out a hint, but they’ve never released the
transcript. Here’s another lead. See if you can find anything about a secret
picture, taken at Harmon Field, Newfoundland–it was around July 1947. I’ll
send you other ideas as I get them.”
Before I left, Purdy wished me luck and told me that he would work in
closest harmony with me. “But watch out for fake tips,” he said. “You’ll
probably run into some people at the Pentagon who’ll talk to you ‘off the
record.’ That handcuffs a writer. Look out they don’t lead you into a blind
alley. Even the Air Force statements and the Project ‘Saucer’ report
contradict each other.”
For six months, I worked with other investigators to solve the mystery of the
disks. We checked a hundred sighting reports, frequently crossing the trail
of Project “Saucer” teams and F.B.I. agents. Old records gave fantastic
leads. So did Air Force plans for exploring space. Rocket experts,
astronomers, Air Force officials and pilot gave us clues pointing to a
startling solution. Many intelligent persons–including scientists–believe
that the saucers contain spies from another planet.
When this first phase was ended, we were faced with a hard decision. We
had uncovered important facts, We knew the saucers were real. If it was
handled carefully, we believed the story would be in line with a secret Air
It was finally decided to publish certain alternate conclusions. The Air
Force was informed of True’s intentions; no attempt was made to block
In the January 1950 issue of True, I reported that we had reached the
following conclusions: 1 The earth has been observed periodically by
visitors from another planet.
2. This observation has increased markedly in the past two years.
“The only other possible explanation,” I wrote, “is that the saucers are
extremely high-speed, long-range devices developed here on earth. Such
an advance (which the Air Force has denied) would require an almost
incredible leap in technical progress even for American scientists and
Nation-wide press and radio comment followed the appearance of the
article. This publicity was obviously greater than the Air Force had
expected. Within twenty-four hours the Pentagon was deluged with
telegrams, letters, and long-distance calls. Apparently fearing a panic, the
Air Force hastily stated that flying-saucer reports–even those made by its
own pilots and high-ranking officers–were mistakes or were caused by
But three days later, when it was plain that many Americans calmly
accepted True’s disclosures, the Air Force released a secret project
“Saucer” file containing this significant statement:
“It will never be possible to say with certainty that any individual did not see
a space ship, an enemy missile or other object.”
In this same document there appears a confidential analysis of Air
intelligence reports. It is this summary that contains the official
suggestion Of space visitors’ motives. After stating that such a civilization
would obviously be far ahead of our own, the report adds:
“Since the acts of mankind most easily observed from a distance are Abomb
explosions, we should expect some relation to obtain between the
time of the A-bomb explosions, the time at which the space ships are
seen, and the time required for such ships to arrive from and return to
(In a previous report, which alternately warned and reassured the public,
the Air Force stated that space travel outside the solar system is almost a
1. Air Force press release 629-49, December 27, 1949.
2. Air Force Project “Saucer” December 30, 1949.
3. Air Force report M-26-49, Preliminary Studies on Flying saucers, April
Since 1949 there has been a steady increase in saucer sightings. Most of
them have been authentic reports, which Air Force denials cannot
disprove. In January, mystery disks were reported over Kentucky, Indiana,
Texas, Pennsylvania, and several other states. On the Seattle Anchorage
route, an air freighter was paced for five minutes by a night-flying saucer.
When the pilots tried to close in, the strange craft zoomed at terrific speed.
Later, the airline head reported that Intelligence officers had quizzed the
pilots for hours.
“From their questions,” he said, “I could tell they had a good idea of what
the saucers are. One officer admitted they did, but he wouldn’t say any
Another peculiar incident occurred at Tucson, Arizona, on February 1. Just
at dusk, a weird, fiery object raced westward over the city, astonishing
hundreds in the streets below. The Tucson Daily Citizen ran the story next
day with a double-banner headline:
FLYING SAUCER OVER TUCSON? B-29 FAILS TO CATCH OBJECT
Flying saucer? Secret experimental plane? Or perhaps a scout craft from
Mars? Certainly the strange aircraft that blazed a smoke trail over Tucson
at dusk last night defies logical explanation. It was as mystifying to
experienced pilots as to groundlings who have trouble in identifying
Cannonballing through the sky, some 30,000 feet aloft, was a fiery object
shooting westward so fast it was impossible to gain any clear impression
of its shape or size. . . .
At what must have been top speed the object spewed out light colored
smoke, but almost directly over Tucson it appeared to hover for a few
seconds. The smoke puffed out an angry black and then be came lighter
as the strange missile appeared to gain speed”
The radio operator in the Davis-Monthan air force base control tower
contacted First Lt. Roy L. Jones, taking off for a cross-country flight in a B-
29, and asked him to investigate. Jones revved up his swift aerial tanker
and still the unknown aircraft steadily pulled away toward California.
Dr. Edwin F. Carpenter, head of the University of Arizona department of
astronomy, said he was certain that the object was not a meteor or other
natural phenomenon. . . .
Switchboards at the Pima county sheriff’s office and Tucson police station
were jammed with inquiries.
Hundreds saw the object. Tom Bailey, 1411 E. 10th Street, thought it was
a large airplane on fire. [A later check showed no planes missing.] He said
it wavered from left to right as it passed over the mountains.
Bailey also noticed that the craft appeared to slow perceptibly over
Tucson. He said the smoke apparently came out in a thin, almost invisible
stream, gaining substance within a few seconds.
This incident had an odd sequel the following day. Its significance was not
lost on the Daily Citizen. It ran another front-page story, headlined:
WHAT DO YOU MEAN ONLY VAPOR TRAIL?
As though to prove itself blameless for tilting hundreds of Tucson heads
skyward, the U.S. Air Force yesterday afternoon spent hours etching vapor
trails through the skies over the city.
The demonstration proved conclusively to the satisfaction of most that the
strange path of dark smoke blazed across the evening sky at dusk
Wednesday was no vapor trail and did not emanate from any conventional
The Wednesday night spectacle was entirely dissimilar. Then, heavy
smoke boiled and swirled in a broad, dark ribbon fanning out at least a
mile in width and stretching across the sky in a straight line. Since there
was no proof as to what caused the strange predark manifestation, and
because even expert witnesses were unable to explain the appearance,
the matter remains a subject for interesting speculation.
There is strong evidence that this story was deliberately kept off the press
wires. The Associated Press and other wire services in Washington had
no report. Requests for details by Frank Edwards, Mutual newscaster, and
other radio commentators ran into a blank wall. At the Pentagon I was told
that the Air Force had no knowledge of the sighting or the vapor-trail
On February 22 two similar glowing objects were seen above Boca Chica
Naval Air Station at Key West. A plane sent tip to investigate was
hopelessly outdistanced; it was obvious the things were at a great height.
Back at the station, radarmen tracked the objects as they hovered for a
moment above Key West. They were found to be at least fifty miles above
the earth. After a few seconds, they accelerated at high speed and
streaked out of sight.
On the following day Commander Augusto Orrego, a Chilean naval officer,
reported that saucers had flown above his antarctic base.
“During the bright Antarctic night,” be said, “we saw flying saucers, one
above the other, turning at tremendous speeds. We have photographs to
prove what we saw.”
Early in March, Ken Purdy phoned the latest development in the
investigation. He had just received a tip predicting a flurry of saucer
publicity during March. It had come from an important source in
“You know what it probably means,” he said. “The same thing we talked
about last month. But why were we tipped off in advance?”
“It’s one more piece in the pattern,” I said. “If the tip’s on the level, then
they’re stepping up the program.”
Within three days, reports began to pour in–from Peru, Cuba, Mexico,
Turkey, and other parts of the world.
Then on March 9 a gleaming metallic disk was sighted over Dayton, Ohio.
Observers at Vandalia Airport phoned Wright-Patterson Field. Scores of
Air Force pilots and groundmen watched the disk, as fighters raced up in
pursuit. The mysterious object streaked vertically skyward, hovered for a
while miles above the earth, and then disappeared. A secret report was
rushed to the Civil Aeronautics Authority in Washington, then turned over to
Air Force Intelligence.
Soon after this Dr. Craig Hunter, director of a medical supply firm, reported
a huge elliptical saucer flying at a low altitude in Pennsylvania. He
described it as metallic, with a slotted outer rim and a rotating ring just
inside. [p. 13] On top of this sighting, thousands of people at Farmington,
New Mexico, watched a large formation of disks pass high above the city.
Throughout all these reports, the Air Force refused to admit the existence
of flying saucers. On March 18 it flatly denied they were Air Force secret
missiles or space-exploration devices.
Three days later, a Chicago and Southern airliner crew saw a fast-flying
disk near Stuttgart, Arkansas. The circular craft, blinking a strange bluewhite
light, pulled up in an arc at terrific speed. The two pilots said they
glimpsed lighted ports on the lower side as the saucer zoomed above
them. The lights had a soft fluorescence, unlike anything they had seen.
There was one peculiar angle in the Arkansas incident. There was no
apparent attempt to muzzle the two pilots, as in earlier airline cases.
Instead, a United Press interview was quickly arranged, for nation-wide
publication. In this wire story Captain Jack Adams and First Officer G. W.
Anderson made two statements:
“We firmly believe that the flying saucer we saw over Arkansas was a
secret experimental type aircraft–not a visitor from outer space. . . .
“We know the Air Force has denied there is anything to this flying-saucer
business, but we’re both experienced pilots and we’re not easily fooled.”
The day after this story appeared, I was discussing it with an airline official
“That’s an odd thing,” he said. “The Air Force could have persuaded those
pilots–or the line president–to hush the thing up. It looks as if they wanted
that story broadcast.”
“You mean the whole thing was planted?”
“I won’t say that, though it could have been. Probably they did see
something. But they might have been told what to say about it.”
“Any idea why?”
He looked at me sharply. “You and Purdy probably know the answer. At a
guess, I’d say it might have been planned to offset that Navy commander’s
report–the one on the White Sands sightings.”
The White Sands case had puzzled many skeptics, because the Pentagon
had cleared the published report.
The author, Commander R. B. McLaughlin, was a regular Navy officer. As
a Navy rocket expert, he had been stationed at the White Sands Rocket
Proving Ground in New Mexico. In his published article he described three
disk sightings at White Sands.
One of the disks, a huge elliptical craft, was tracked by scientists with
precision instruments at five miles per second. That’s 18,000 miles per
hour. It was found to be flying fifty-six miles above the earth. Two other
disks, smaller types, were watched from five observation posts on hills at
the proving ground. Circling at incredible speed, the two disks paced an
Army high-altitude rocket that had just been launched, then speeded up
and swiftly outclimbed the projectile.
Commander McLaughlin’s report, giving dates and factual details, was
cleared by the Department of Defense. So was a later nation-wide
Then the Air Force made its routine denial.
Why was McLaughlin, a regular Navy officer subject to security screening,
permitted to give out this story?
Was it an incredible slip-up? Or was it part of some carefully thought-out
plan? I believe it was part of an elaborate program to prepare the
American people for a dramatic disclosure.
For almost a year I have watched the behind-the-scenes maneuvers of
those who guide this program. In the following chapters I have tried to show
the strange developments in our search for the answer; the carefully
misleading tips, the blind alleys we entered, the unexpected assistance,
the confidential leads, and the stunning contradictions.
It has been a complicated jigsaw puzzle. Only by seeing all parts of this
intricate picture can you begin to glimpse the reasons for this stubbornly
The official explanation may be imminent. When it is finally revealed, I
believe the elaborate preparation–
even the wide deceit involved–will be fully justified in the minds of the
IT HAS BEEN over two years since the puzzling death of Captain Thomas
Mantell died mysteriously in the skies south of Fort Knox. But before his
radio went silent, he sent a strange message to Godman Air Force Base.
The men who heard it will never forget it.
It was January 7, 1948.
Crowded into the Godman Field Tower, a group of Air Force officers
stared up at the afternoon sky. For just an instant, something gleamed
through the broken clouds south of the base.
High above the field, three P-51 fighters climbed with swift urgency.
Heading south, they quickly vanished.
The clock in the tower read 2:45.
Colonel Guy Hix, the C.O., slowly put down his binoculars. If the thing was
still there, the clouds now hid it.
All they could do was wait.
The first alarm had come from Fort Knox, when Army M.P.’s had relayed a
state police warning. A huge gleaming object had been seen in the sky,
moving toward Godman Field. Hundreds of startled people had seen it at
Madisonville, ninety miles away.
Thirty minutes later, it had zoomed up over the base.
Colonel Hix glanced around at the rest of the men in the tower. They all had
a dazed look. Every man there had seen the thing, as it barreled south of
the field. Even through the thin clouds, its intermittent red glow had hinted
at some mysterious source of power. Something outside their
It was Woods, the exec, who had estimated its size. Hix shook his head.
That was unbelievable. But something had hung over Godman Field for
almost an hour. The C.O. turned quickly as the loud-speaker, tuned to the
P-51’s, suddenly came to life.
“Captain Mantell to Godman . . . Tower – Mantell to Godman Tower . . .”
The flight leader’s voice had a strained tone. “I’ve sighted the thing!” he
said. “It looks metallic–and it’s tremendous in size!”
The C.O. and Woods stared at each other. No one spoke.
“The thing’s starting to climb,” Mantell said swiftly. “It’s at twelve o’clock
high, making half my speed. I’ll try to close in.”
In five minutes, Mantell reported again. The strange metallic object had
speeded up, was now making 360
At 3:08, Mantell’s wingman called in. Both he and the other pilot had seen
the weird object. But Mantell had outclimbed them and was lost in the
Seven minutes dragged by. The men in the tower sweated out the silence.
Then, at 3:15, Mantell made a hasty contact.
“It’s still above me, making my speed or better. I’m going up to twenty
thousand feet. If I’m no closer, I’ll abandon chase.”
It was his last report.
Minutes later, his fighter disintegrated with terrific force. The falling
wreckage was scattered for thousands of feet.
When Mantell failed to answer the tower, one of his pilots began a search.
Climbing to 33,000 feet, he flew a hundred miles to the south.
But the thing that lured Mantell to his death had vanished from the sky.
Ten days after Mantell was killed, I learned of a curious sequel to the
An A.P. account in the New York Times had caught my attention. The story,
released at Fort Knox, admitted Mantell had died while chasing a flying
saucer. Colonel Hix was quoted as having watched the object, which was
still unidentified. But there was no mention of Mantell’s radio messages–no
hint of the thing’s tremendous size.
Though I knew the lid was probably on, I went to the Pentagon. When the
scare had first broken, in the summer of ’47, I had talked with Captain Tom
Brown, who was handling saucer inquiries. But by now Brown had been
shifted, and no one in the Press Branch would admit knowing the details of
the Mantell saucer chase.
“We just don’t know the answer,” a security officer told me.
“There’s a rumor,” I said, “it’s a secret Air Force missile that sometimes
goes out of control.”
“Good God, man!” he exploded. “If it was, do you think we’d be ordering
pilots to chase the damned things?”
“No–and I didn’t say I believed it.” I waited until he cooled down. “This
order you mentioned–is it for all Air Force pilots, or special fighter units?”
“I didn’t say it was a special order,” he answered quickly. “All pilots have
routine instructions to report unusual items.”
“They had fighters alerted on the Coast, when the scare first broke,” I
reminded him. “Are those orders still in force?”
He shook his head. “No, not that I know of.” After a moment he added, “All I
can tell you is that the Air Force is still investigating. We honestly don’t
know the answer.”
As I went out the Mall entrance, I ran into Jack Daly, one of Washington’s
veteran newsmen. Before the war, Jack and I had done magazine pieces
together, usually on Axis espionage and communist activity. I told him I was
trying to find the answer to Mantell’s death.
“You heard anything?” I asked him.
“Only what was in the A.P. story,” said Jack. “But an I.N.S. man told me
they had a saucer story from Columbus, Ohio–and it might have been the
same one they saw at Fort Knox.”
“I missed that. What was it?”
“They sighted the thing at the Air Force field outside of Columbus. It was
around sundown, about two hours after that pilot was killed in Kentucky.”
“Anybody chase it?” I asked.
“No. They didn’t have time to take off, I guess. This I.N.S. guy said it was
going like hell. Fast as a jet, anyway.”
“Did he say what it looked like?”
“The Air Force boys said it was as big as a C-47,” said Jack. “Maybe
bigger. It had a reddish-orange exhaust streaming out behind. They could
see it for miles.”
“If you hear any more, let me know,” I said. Jack promised he would.
“What do you think they are?” he asked me.
“It’s got me stumped. Russia wouldn’t be testing missiles over here.
Anyway, I can’t believe they’ve got anything like that. And I can’t see the Air
Force letting pilots get killed to hide something we’ve got.”
One week later, I heard that a top-secret unit had been set up at Wright
Field to investigate all saucer reports. When I called the Pentagon, they
admitted this much, and that was all.
In the next few months, other flying-disk stories hit the front pages. Two
Eastern Airline pilots reported a double-decked mystery ship sighted near
Montgomery, Alabama. I learned of two other sightings, one over the
Pacific Ocean and one in California. The second one, seen through field
glasses, was described as rocket-shaped, as large as a B-29. There were
also rumors of disks being tracked by radar, but it was almost a year
before I confirmed these reports.
When Purdy wired me, early in May of ’49, I had half forgotten the disks. It
had been months since any important sightings had been reported. But his
message quickly revived my curiosity. If he thought the subject was hot, I
knew he must have reasons. When I walked into his office at 67 West 44th,
Purdy stubbed out his cigarette and shook hands. He looked at me through
his glasses for a moment. Then he said abruptly:
“You know anything about the disks?”
“If you mean what they are–no.”
He motioned for me to sit down. Then he swiveled his chair around, his
shoulders hunched forward, and frowned out the window.
“Have you seen the Post this week?”
I told him no.
“There’s something damned queer going on. For fifteen months, Project
‘Saucer’ is buttoned up tight. Top secret. Then suddenly, Forrestal gets the
Saturday Evening Post to run two articles, brushing the whole thing off. The
first piece hits the stands–and then what happens?”
Purdy swung around, jabbed his finger at a document on his desk.
“That same day, the Air Force rushes out this Project ‘Saucer’ report. It
admits they haven’t identified the disks in any important cases. They say
it’s still serious enough–wait a minute–“he thumbed through the stapled
papers–” ‘to require constant vigilance by Project “Saucer” personnel and
the civilian population.'”
“You’d think the Post would make a public kick,” I said.
“I don’t mean it’s an out-and-out denial,” said Purdy. “It doesn’t mention the
Post–just contradicts it. In fact, the report contradicts itself. It looks as if
they’re trying to warn people and yet they’re scared to say too much.”
I looked at the title on the report: “A Digest of Preliminary Studies by the
Air Materiel Command, Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio, on ‘Flying Saucers.'”
“Have the papers caught it yet?” I asked Purdy.
“You mean its contradicting the Post?” He shook his head. “No, the
Pentagon press release didn’t get much space. How many editors would
wade through a six-thousand-word government report? Even if they did,
they’d have to compare it, item for item, with the Post piece.”
“Who wrote the Post story?”
Purdy lit a cigarette and frowned out again at the skyscrapers.
“Sidney Shallett–and he’s careful. He had Forrestal’s backing. The Air
Force flew him around, arranged interviews, supposedly gave him inside
stuff. He spent two months on it. They O.K.’d his script, which practically
says the saucers are bunk. Then they reneged on it.”
“Maybe some top brass suddenly decided it was the wrong policy to brush
it off,” I suggested.
“Why the quick change?” demanded Purdy. “Let’s say they sold the Post
on covering up the truth, in the interests of security. It’s possible, though I
don’t believe it. Or they could simply have fed them a fake story.
Either way, why did they rush this contradiction the minute the Post hit the
“Something serious happened,” I said, “after the Post went to press.”
“Yes, but what?” Purdy said impatiently. “That’s what we’ve got to find out.”
“Does Shallett’s first piece mention Mantell’s death?”
“Explains it perfectly. You know what Mantell was chasing? The planet
“That’s the Post’s answer?” I said, incredulously.
“It’s what the Air Force contract astronomer told Shallett. I’ve checked with
two astronomers here. They say that even when Venus is at full magnitude
you can barely see it in the daytime even when you’re looking for it. It was
only half magnitude that day, so it was practically invisible.”
“How’d the Air Force expect anybody to believe that answer?” I said.
Purdy shrugged. “They deny it was Venus in this report. But that’s what they
told Shallett–that all those Air Force officers, the pilots, the Kentucky state
police, and several hundred people at Madisonville mistook Venus for a
metallic disk several hundred feet in diameter.”
“It’s a wonder Shallett believed it.”
“I don’t think he did. He says if it wasn’t Venus, it must have been a
“What’s the Air Force answer?” I asked Purdy.
“Look in the report. They say whatever Mantell chased–they call it a
‘mysterious object’–is still unidentified.”
I glanced through the case report, on page five. It quoted Mantell’s radio
report that the thing was metallic and tremendous in size. Linked with the
death of Mantell was the Lockbourne, Ohio, report, which tied in with what
Jack Daly had told me, over a year before. I read the report:
“On the same day, about two hours later, a sky phenomenon was observed
by several watchers over Lockbourne Air Force Base, Columbus, Ohio. It
was described as ’round or oval, larger than a C-47, and traveling in level
flight faster than 500 miles per hour.’ The object was followed from the
Lockbourne observation tower for more than 20 minutes. Observers said it
glowed from white to amber, leaving an amber exhaust trail five times its
own length. It made motions like an elevator and at one time appeared to
touch the ground. No sound was heard. Finally, the object faded and
lowered toward the horizon.”
Purdy buzzed for his secretary, and she brought me a copy of the first Post
“You can get a copy of this Air Force report in Washington,” Purdy told me.
“This is the only one I have. But you’ll find the same answer for most of the
important cases–the sightings at Muroc Air Base, the airline pilots’ reports,
the disks Kenneth Arnold saw–they’re all unidentified.”
“I remember the Arnold case. That was the first sighting.”
“You’ve got contacts in Washington,” Purdy went on. “Start at the Pentagon
first. They know we’re working on it. Sam Boal, the first man on this job,
was down there for a day or two.”
“What did he find out?”
“Symington told him the saucers were bunk. Secretary Johnson admitted
they had some pictures–we’d heard about a secret photograph taken at
Harmon Field, Newfoundland. The tip said this saucer scared hell out of
some pilots and Air Force men up there.
“A major took Boal to some Air Force colonel and Boal asked to see the
pictures. The colonel said they didn’t have any. He turned red when the
major said Symington had told Boal about the pictures.”
“Did Boal get to see them?” I said.
“No,” grunted Purdy, “and I’ll bet twenty bucks you won’t, either. But try,
anyway. And check on a rumor that they’ve tracked some disks with radar.
One case was supposed to be at an Air Force base in Japan.”
As I was leaving, Purdy gave me a summary of sighting reports.
“Some of these were published, some we dug up ourselves,” he said. “We
got some confidential stuff from airline pilots. It’s pretty obvious the Air
Force has tried to keep them quiet.”
“All right,” I said. “I’ll get started. Maybe things aren’t sewed up so tightly,
now this report is out.”
“We’ve found out some things about Project ‘Saucer,’ said Purdy.
“Whether it’s a cover-up or a real investigation, there’s a lot of hush-hush
business to it. They’ve got astronomers and astrophysicists working for
them, also rocket expects, technical analysts, and Air Force Special
Intelligence. We’ve been told they can call on any government agency for
help–and I know they’re using the F.B.I.”
It was building up bigger than I had thought.
“If national security is involved,” I told Purdy, “they can shut us up in a
“If they tell me so, O.K.,” said Purdy. He added grimly, “But I think they’re
making a bad mistake. They probably think they’re doing what’s right. But
the truth might come out the wrong way.”
“It is possible,” I thought, “that the saucers belong to Russia.”
“If it turns out to be a Soviet missile, count me out,” I said. “We’d have the
Pentagon and the F.B.I. on our necks.”
“All right, if that’s the answer.” He chuckled. “But you may be in for a jolt.”
JUST THE idea of gigantic flying disks was incredible enough. It was
almost as hard to believe that such missiles could have been developed
without something leaking out. Yet we had produced the A-bomb in
comparative secrecy, and I knew we were working on long-range guided
missiles. There was already a plan for a three-thousand-mile test range.
Our supersonic planes had hit around two thousand miles an hour.
Our two-stage rockets had gone over two hundred miles high, according to
reports. If an atomic engine had been secretly developed, it could explain
the speed and range of the saucers.
But I kept coming back to Mantell’s death and the Air Force orders for
pilots to chase the saucers. If the disks were American missiles, that didn’t
When I reached the lobby, I found it was ten after four. I caught a taxi and
made the Congressional Limited with just one minute to spare. In the club
car, I settled down to look at Purdy’s summary.
Skipping through the pages, I saw several familiar cases. Here and there,
Purdy had scrawled brief comments or suggestions. Beside the Eastern
Airline report of a double-decked saucer, he had written:
“Check rumor same type seen over Holland about this date. Also, similar
Philippine Islands report–date unknown.”
I went back to the beginning. The first case listed was that of Kenneth
Arnold, a Boise businessman, who had set off the saucer scare. Arnold
was flying his private plane from Chehalis to Yakima, Washington, when he
saw a bright flash on his wing.
Looking toward Mount Rainier, he saw nine gleaming disks outlined
against the snow, each one about the size of a C-54.
“They flew close to the mountaintops, in a diagonal chainlike line,” he said
later. “It was as if they were linked together.”
The disks appeared to be twenty to twenty-five miles away, he said, and
moving at fantastic speed. Arnold’s estimate was twelve hundred miles an
“I watched them about three minutes,” he said. “They were swerving in and
out around the high mountain peaks. They were flat, like a pie pan, and so
shiny they reflected the sun like a mirror. I never saw anything so fast.”
The date was June 24, 1947.
On this same day there was another saucer report. which received very
little notice. A Portland prospector named Fred Johnson, who was working
up in the Cascade Mountains, spotted five or six disks banking in the sun.
He watched them through his telescope several seconds. then he suddenly
noticed that the compass hand on his special watch was weaving wildly
from side to side. Johnson insisted he had not heard of the Arnold report,
which was not broadcast until early evening.
Kenneth Arnold’s story was generally received with amusement. Most
Americans were unaware that the Pentagon had been receiving disk
reports as early as January. The news and radio comments on Arnold’s
report brought several other incidents to light, which observers had kept to
themselves for fear of ridicule.
At Oklahoma City, a private pilot told Air Force investigators he had seen
a huge round object in the sky during the latter part of May. It was flying
three times faster than a jet, he said, and without any sound.
Citizens of Weiser, Idaho, described two strange fast-moving objects they
had seen on June 12. The saucers were heading southeast, now and then
dropping to a lower altitude, then swiftly climbing again. Several
mysterious objects were reported flying at great speed near Spokane, just
three days before Arnold’s experience. And four days after his encounter,
an Air Force pilot flying near Lake Meade, Nevada, was startled to see half
a dozen saucers flash by his plane.
Even at this early point in the scare, official reports were contradicting
each other. just after Arnold’s story broke, the Air Force admitted it was
checking on the mystery disks. On July 4 the Air Force stated that no
further investigation was needed; it was all hallucination. That same day,
Wright Field told the Associated Press that the Air Materiel Command was
trying to find the answer.
The Fourth of July was a red-letter day in the flying-saucer mystery. At
Portland, Oregon, hundreds of citizens, including former Air Force pilots,
police, harbor pilots, and deputy sheriffs, saw dozens of gleaming disks
flying at high speed. The things; appeared to be at least forty thousand feet
in the air–perhaps much higher.
That same day, disks were sighted at Seattle, Vancouver, and other
northwest cities. The rapidly growing reports were met with mixed ridicule
and alarm. One of the skeptical group was Captain E. J. Smith, of United
“I’ll believe them when I see them,” he told airline employees, before taking
off from Boise the afternoon of the Fourth.
Just about sunset, his airliner was flying over Emmett, Idaho, when Captain
Smith and his copilot, Ralph Stevens, saw five queer objects in the sky
ahead. Smith rang for the stewardess, Marty Morrow, and the three of them
watched the saucers for several minutes. Then four more of the disks
came into sight.
Though it was impossible to tell their size, because their altitude was
unknown, the crew was sure they were bigger than the plane they were in.
After about ten minutes the disks disappeared.
The Air Force quickly denied having anything resembling the! objects
Captain Smith described.
“We have no experimental craft of that nature in Idaho–or anywhere else,”
an official said in Washington.
“We’re completely mystified.”
The Navy said it had made an investigation, and had no answers. There
had been rumors that the disks were “souped-up” versions of the Navy’s
“Flying Flapjack,” a twin-engined circular craft known technically as the XF-
5-U-1. But the Navy insisted that only one model had been built, and that it
was now out of service.
In Chicago, two astronomers spiked guesses that the disks might be
meteors. Dr. Girard Kieuper, director of the University of Chicago
observatory, said flatly that they couldn’t be meteors.
“They’re probably man-made,” he told the A.P. Dr. Oliver Lee, director of
Northwestern’s observatory, agreed with Kieuper.
“The Army, Navy, and Air Force are working secretly on all sorts of things,”
he said. “Remember the A-bomb secrecy–and the radar signals to the
As I went through Purdy’s summary, I recalled my own reaction after the
United Airlines report. After seeing the Pentagon comment, I had called up
Captain Tom Brown, at Air Force Public Relations.
“Are you really taking this seriously?” I asked him.
“Well, we can’t just ignore it,” he said. “There are too many reliable pilots
telling the same story–flat, round objects able to outmaneuver ordinary
planes, and faster than anything we have. Too many stories tally.”
I told him I’d heard that the Civil Air Patrol in Wisconsin and other states
was starting a sky search.
“We’ve got a jet at Muroc, and six fighters standing by at Portland right
now,” Brown said.
“I’ve no report on that. But I know some of them carry photographic
Two days later an airline pilot from the Coast told me that some fighters
had been armed and the pilots ordered to bring down the disks if humanly
possible. That same day, Wright Field admitted it was checking stories of
disk-shaped missiles seen recently in the Pacific northwest and in Texas.
Following this was an A.P. story, dated July 7, quoting an unnamed Air
Force official in Washington:
“The flying saucers may be one of three things:
“1. Solar reflection on low-hanging clouds. [A Washington scientist, asked
for comment, said this was hardly possible.]
“2. Small meteors which break up, their crystals catching the rays of the
sun. But it would seem that they would have been spotted falling and
fragments would have been found.
“3. Icing conditions could have formed large hailstones, and they might
have flattened out and glided a bit, giving the impression of horizontal
movement even though falling vertically.”
By this time everyone was getting into the act.
“The disks are caused by the transmutation of atomic energy,” said an
anonymous scientist, supposed to be on the staff of California Tech. The
college quickly denied it.
Dr. Vannevar Bush, world-famous scientist, and Dr. Merle Tuve, inventor of
the proximity fuse, both declared they would know of any secret American
At Syracuse, New York, Dr. Harry Steckel, Veterans Administration
psychiatrist, scoffed at the suggestion of mass hysteria. “Too many sane
people are seeing the things. The government is probably conducting
some revolutionary experiments.”
On July 8 more disks were reported. Out at Muroc Air Force Base, where
top-secret planes and devices are tested, six fast-moving silvery-white
saucers were seen by pilots and ground officers.
That afternoon the Air Force revealed it was working on a case involving a
Navy rocket expert named C. T.
Zohm. While on a secret Navy mission to New Mexico, in connection with
rocket tests, Zohm had seen a bright silvery disk flying above the desert.
He was crossing the desert with three other scientists when he saw the
strange object flashing northward at an altitude of about ten thousand feet.
“I’m sure it was not a meteor,” said Zohm. “It could have been a guided
missile, but I never heard of anything like it.”
By this time, saucer reports had come in from almost forty states. Alarm
was increasing, and there were demands that radar be used to track the
disks. The Air Force replied that there was not enough radar equipment to
blanket the nation, but that its pilots were on the lookout for the saucers.
One report mentioned a curious report from Twin Falls, Idaho. The disk
sighted there was said to have flown so low that the treetops whirled as if
in a violent storm. Someone had phoned Purdy about a disk tracked by
weather-balloon observers at Richmond, Virginia. There was another note
on a sighting at Hickam Field, Honolulu, and two reports of unidentified
objects seen near Anchorage, Alaska.
A typed list of world-wide sightings had been made up by the staff at True.
It contained many cases that were new to me, reports from Paraguay,
Belgium, Turkey, Holland, Germany, and the Scandinavian countries. At
the bottom of this memo Purdy had written: “Keep checking on rumor that
the Soviet has a Project Saucer, too. Could be planted.”
From the mass of reports, John DuBarry, the aviation editor of True, had
methodically worked out an average picture of the disks: “The general
report is that they are round or oval (this could be an elliptical object seen
end-on), metallic looking, very bright–either shining white or silvery
colored. They can move at extremely high speed, hover, accelerate rapidly,
and outmaneuver ordinary aircraft.
“The lights are usually seen singly–very few formations reported. They
seem to have the same speed, acceleration, and ability to maneuver. In
several cases, they have been able to evade Air Force planes in night
Going over the cases, I realized that Purdy and his staff had dug up at least
fifty reports that had not appeared in the papers. (A few of these proved
incorrect, but a check with the Air Force case reports released on
December 30, 1949, showed that True’s files contained all the important
items.) These cases included sightings at eleven Air Force bases and
fourteen American airports, reports from ships at sea, and a score of
encounters by airline and private pilots.
Witnesses included Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force officers;
state and city police; F.B.I. agents; weather observers, shipmasters,
astronomers, and thousands of good solid American citizens. I learned
later that many witnesses had been investigated by the F.B.I. to weed out
I ended up badly puzzled. The evidence was more impressive than I had
suspected. It was plain that many reports had been entirely suppressed, or
at least kept out of the papers. There was something ominous about it. No
matter what the answer, it was serious enough to be kept carefully hidden.
If it were a Soviet missile, I thought, God help us. They’d scooped up a lot
of Nazi scientists and war secrets. And the Germans had been far ahead
of us on guided missiles. But why would they give us a two-year warning,
testing the things openly over America? It didn’t make sense.
I WENT to the Pentagon the next morning. I didn’t expect to learn much, but
I wanted to make sure we weren’t tangling with security.
I’d worked with Al Scholin and Orville Splitt, in the magazine section of
Public Relations, and I thought they’d tell me as much as anyone. When I
walked in, I sprang it on them cold.
“What’s the chance of seeing your Project ‘Saucer’ files?”
Al Scholin took it more or less dead-pan. Splitt looked at me a moment
and then grinned.
“Don’t tell me you believe the things are real?”
“Maybe,” I said. “How about clearing me with Project ‘Saucer’?”
Al shook his head. “It’s still classified secret.”
“‘Look, Don,” said Splitt, “why do you want to fool with that saucer
business? There’s nothing to it.”
‘”That’s a big change from what the Air Force was saying; in 1947,” I told
He shrugged that off. “The Air Force has spent two years checking into it.
Everybody from Symington down will tell you the saucers are bunk.”
“That’s not what Project ‘Saucer’ says in that April report.”
“That report was made up a long time ago,” said Splitt. “They just got
around to releasing it.”
“Then they’ve got all the answers now?”
“They know there’s nothing to it,” Splitt repeated.
“In that case,” I said, “Project ‘Saucer’ shouldn’t object to my seeing their
files and pictures.”
“That one taken at Harmon Field, Newfoundland, for a starter.”
“Oh, that thing,” said Splitt. “It wasn’t anything–just a shadow on a cloud.
Somebody’s been kidding you.”
“If it’s just a cloud shadow, why can’t I see it?”
Splitt was getting a little nettled. “Look, you know how long it takes to
declassify stuff. They just haven’t got around to it. Take my word for it, the
flying saucers are bunk. I went around with Sid Shallett on some of his
interviews. What he’s got in the Post is the absolute gospel.”
“It’s funny about that April twenty-seventh report,” I said, “the way it
contradicts the Post.”
“I tell you that was an old report–”
“I wouldn’t say that,” Al Scholin put in. “The Air Force doesn’t claim it has all
the answers. But they’ve proved a lot of the reports were hoaxes or
“Just the same,” I said, “the Air Force is on record, as of April twentyseventh,
that it’s serious enough for everybody to be vigilant. And they
admit most of the things, in the important cases, are still unidentified.
Including the saucer Mantell was chasing.”
“That business at Godman Field was some kind of hallucination,” insisted
“I suppose all those pilots and Godman Field officers were hypnotized?
Not to mention several thousand people at Madisonville and Fort Knox?”
“Take it easy, you guys,” said Al Scholin. “You’ve both got a right to your
“Oh, sure,” said Splitt. He looked at me, with his grin back. “I don’t care if
you think they’re men from Mars.”
“Let’s not go off the deep end,” I said. “Tell me this: Did Shallett get to see
any secret files at Wright Field?”
“Then he had to take the Air Force word for everything?”
“Not entirely. We set up some interviews for him.”
“One more thing–and don’t get mad. If it’s all bunk, why haven’t they closed
“How do I know? Probably no one wants to take the responsibility.”
“Then somebody high up must not think it’s bunk,” I said.
Splitt laughed. “Have it your own way.”
Before I left, I told them I was working with True.
“I want to be on record,” I said, “as having told you this. If there’s any
security involved–if you tell me it’s something you’re working on–naturally I’ll
Al Scholin said emphatically, “It’s not an Air Force device, if that’s what you
“Some people think it’s Russian.”
“If it is, I don’t know it,” said Al, “and neither does the Air Force.”
After I left the magazine section, I tried several officers I knew. Two of them
agreed with Splitt. The third didn’t.
“I’ve been told it’s all bunk,” he said, “but you get the feeling they’ve trying to
convince themselves. They act like people near a haunted house. They’ll
swear it isn’t haunted–but they won’t go near it.”
Later, I asked a security major for a copy of the Project “Saucer” report.
“We’re out of copies right now,” he said. “I’ll send you one next week.”
I asked him bluntly what he thought the saucers were.
“I doubt if anybody has the full answer,” he said seriously. “There’s been
some hysteria–also a few mistakes. But many reports have been made by
reliable pilots, including our own. You can’t laugh those off.”
As I drove home, I thought over what I’d heard. All I had learned was that
the Air Force seemed divided.
But that could be a smoke screen. In less than twenty-four hours, I received
my first suspicious tip. It was about ten A.M. when my phone rang.
“Mr. Keyhoe? This is John Steele,” said the voice at the other end.
(Because of the peculiar role he played, then and later, I have not used his
real name.) “I’m a former Air Force Intelligence officer. I was in the
European theater during the war.”
I waited. He hesitated a moment.
“I heard you’re working on the flying-saucer problem,” he said quickly. “I
may have some information that would interest you.”
“Mind telling me who told you I was on it?” I asked.
“No one, directly. I just happened to hear it mentioned at the Press Club.
Frankly, I’ve been curious about the flying saucers ever since ’45.”
That startled me, but I didn’t tell him so.
“Do you have any idea what they are?” Mr. Steele said.
“No, I’ve just begun checking. But I’d be glad to hear what you’ve got.”
“I may be way off,” said Steele. “But I’ve always wondered about the ‘foo
fighters’ our pilots saw over Europe near the end of the war.”
I thought for a second. “Wasn’t that some kind of antiaircraft missile fired
from the ground?”
“No. Intelligence never did get any real answer, so far as I know. They were
some kind of circular gadgets, and they actually chased our planes a
number of times. We thought they were something the Nazis had invented–
and I still think so.”
“Then who’s launching them now?”
“Well, it’s obviously either Russia or us. If it is the Soviet–well, that’s what’s
worried me. I don’t think it should be treated like a joke, the way some
people in the Pentagon take it.”
I stared at the phone, trying to figure him out.
“I’d like to talk it over with you,” I said. “Maybe you’ve got something.”
“I’ve given you about all I know,” Steele answered. “There was an
Intelligence report you might try to see–
the Eighth Air Force files should have it.”
“Wait a minute,” I said. “Give me your number, in case I find anything.”
He gave it to me without apparent hesitation. I thanked him and hung up,
If it was an attempt at a plant, it was certainly crude. The mention of his
former Air Force connection would be enough to arouse suspicion, unless
he counted on his apparent frankness to offset it.
And what about the Press Club angle? That would indicate Steele was a
newspaperman. Could this be merely an attempt to pump me and get a
lead on True’s investigation? But that would be just as crude as the other
idea. Of course, he might be sincere. But regardless of his motives, it
looked bad. Arid who had told him about me?
I thought about that for a minute. Then I picked up the phone and dialed
Jack Daly’s number.
“Jack, do you know anyone named John Steele?” I asked him. “I think he’s
“Nobody I know,” said Jack. “Why, what’s up?”
I explained, and added, “I thought maybe you knew him, and he’d heard
about it from you.”
“Hell, no,” said Jack. “You ought to know I wouldn’t leak any tip like that.”
“It wouldn’t be a tip–I don’t know anything about this deal yet. By the way,
when you were on the Star did you handle anything on ‘foo fighters’?”
“No, that was after I left there. Bill Shippen would have covered that,
I told him I would look it up in the Star’s morgue. Jack said he would meet
me there at three o’clock; in the meantime he would see what he could find
out about Steele.
Jack was a little late, and I went over the Star’s file on the foo fighters. Most
of the facts were covered in a story dated July 6, 1947, which had been
inspired by the outbreak of the saucer scare. I copied it for later use:
During the latter part of World War Two, fighter pilots in England were
convinced that Hitler had a new secret weapon. Yanks dubbed these
devices “foo fighters” or “Kraut fireballs.”
One of the Air Force Intelligence men now assigned to check on the
saucer scare was an officer who investigated statements of military airmen
that circular foo fighters were seen over Europe and also on the bombing
route to Japan.
It was reported that Intelligence officers have never obtained satisfactory
explanation of reports of flying silver balls and disks over Nazi-occupied
Europe in the winter of 1944-45. Later, crews of B-29’S on bombing runs
to Japan reported seeing somewhat similar objects.
In Europe, some foo fighters danced just off the Allied fighters’ wingtips
and played tag with them in power dives. Others appeared in precise
formations and on one occasion a whole bomber crew saw about 15
following at a distance, their strange glow flashing on and off. One foo
fighter chased Lieutenant Meiers of Chicago some 20 miles down the
Rhine Valley, at 300 m.p.h., an A.P. war correspondent reported.
Intelligence officers believed at that time that the balls might be radarcontrolled
objects sent up to foul ignition systems or baffle Allied radar
There is no explanation of their appearance here, unless the objects could
have been imported for secret tests in this country.
I read the last paragraph twice. This looked like a strong lead to the
answer, in spite of the Air Force denials. There was another, less pleasant
possibility. The Russians could have seized the device and developed it
secretly, using Nazi scientists to help them. Perhaps the Nazis had been
close to an atomic engine, even if they did fail to produce the bomb.
Jack Daly came in while I was reading the story again.
“I got the dope on Steele,” he said. “He does pieces for a small syndicate,
and I found out he was in the Air Force. I think he was a captain. People
who know him say he’s O.K.–a straight shooter.”
“That still wouldn’t keep him from giving me a fake tip, if somebody told
him it was the right thing to do.”
“Maybe not,” said Jack, “but why would they want to plant this foo-fighter
I showed him the clipping. He read it over and shook his head.
“That’s a lot different from disks three hundred feet in diameter.”
“If we got the principle–or Russia did-building big ones might not be too
“I still can’t swallow it,” said Jack. “These things have been seen all over
the world. How could they control them that far away–and be sure they
wouldn’t crash, where somebody could get a look and dope out the
We argued it back and forth without getting anywhere.
“I’d give a lot to know Steele’s angle,” I said. “If you hear anything more on
him, give me a buzz.”
Jack nodded. “I’ll see what I can do. But I can’t dig too hard, or he’ll hear
On the way out, I found a phone booth and called Splitt.
“Foo fighters?” he said. “Sure, I remember those stories. You think those
are your flying saucers?”
I could hear him snicker.
“Just checking angles,” I said. “Didn’t the Eighth Air Force investigate the
“Yes, and they found nothing to back up the pilots’ yarns. just war nerves,
“How about a look at the Intelligence report?” I asked.
“Wait a minute.” Splitt was gone for twice that time, then he carne back.
“Sorry, it’s classified.”
“If all this stuff is bunk, why keep the lid on it?” I demanded. I was getting
“Look, Don,” said Splitt, “I don’t make the rules.”
“Sure, I know–sorry,” I said. I had a notion to ask him if he knew John
Steele, but hung up instead. There was no use in banging my head against
the Air Force wall.
The next day I decided to analyze the Mantell case from beginning to end. It
looked like the key to one angle: the question of an Air Force secret
missile. Unless there was some slip-up, so that Mantell and his pilots had
been ordered to chase the disk by mistake, then it would be cold murder.
I couldn’t believe any Air Force officer would give such an order, no matter
how tremendous the secret to be hidden.
But I was going to find out, if possible.
FOR MORE than two weeks, I checked on the Godman Field tragedy. One
fact stood out at the start: The death of Mantell had had a profound effect
on many in the Air Force. A dozen times I was told:
“I thought the saucers were a joke-until Mantell was killed chasing that thing
at Fort Knox.”
Many ranking officers who had laughed at the saucer scare stopped
scoffing. One of these was General Sory Smith, now Deputy Director of Air
Force Public Relations. Later in my investigation, General Smith told me:
“It was the Mantell case that got me. I knew Tommy Mantell. very well–also
Colonel Hix, the C.O. at Godman. I knew they were both intelligent men–
not the kind to be imagining things.”
For fifteen months, the Air Force kept a tight-lipped silence. Meantime,
rumors began to spread. One report said that Mantell had been shot, his
body riddled with bullets; his P-51, also riddled, had simply disintegrated.
Another rumor reported Mantell as having been killed by some mysterious
force; this same force had also destroyed his fighter. The Air Force, the
rumors said, had covered up the truth by telling Mantell’s family he had
blacked out from lack of oxygen.
Checking the last angle, I found that this was the explanation given to
Mantell’s mother, just after his death, she was told by Standiford Field
officers that he had flown too high in chasing the strange object.
Shallet, in the Saturday Evening Post articles, described Project
“Saucer’s” reconstruction of the case.
Mantell was said to have climbed up to 25,000 feet, despite his firm
decision to end the chase at 20,000, since he carried no oxygen. Around
25,000 feet, Shallett quoted the Air Force investigators, Mantell must have
lost consciousness. After this, his pilotless plane climbed on up to some
30,000 feet, then dived.
Between 20,000 and 10,000 feet, Shallett suggested, the P-51 began to
disintegrate, obviously from excessive speed. The gleaming object that
hypnotized Mantell into this fatal climb was, Shallett said, either the planet
Venus or a Navy cosmic-ray research balloon.
The Air Force Project “Saucer” report of April 27, 1949, released just after
the first Post article, makes these statements:
“Five minutes after Mantell disappeared from his formation, the two
remaining planes returned to Godman.
A few minutes later, one resumed the search, covering territory 100 miles
to the south as high as 33,000
feet, but found nothing.
“Subsequent investigation revealed that Mantell had probably blacked out
at 20,000 feet from lack of oxygen and had died of suffocation before the
“The mysterious object which the flyer chased to his death was first
identified as the Planet Venus.
However, further probing showed the elevation and azimuth readings of
Venus and the object at specified time intervals did not coincide.
“It is still considered ‘Unidentified.’
The Venus explanation, even though now denied, puzzled me. It was plain
that the Air Force had seriously considered offering it as the answer then
abandoned it. Apparently someone had got his signals mixed and let
Shallett use the discarded answer. And for some unknown reason, the Air
Force had found it imperative to deny the Venus story at once.
In these first weeks of checking, I had run onto the Venus explanation in
other cases. Several Air Force officers repeated it so quickly that it had the
sound of a stock alibi. But in the daytime cases this was almost ridiculous.
I knew of a few instances in World War II when bomber crews and
antiaircraft gunners had loosed a few bursts at Venus. But this was mostly
at night, when the planet was at peak brilliance. And more than one gunner
later admitted firing to relieve long hours of boredom. Since enemy planes
did not carry lights, there was no authentic case, to my knowledge, where
plane or ground gunners actually believed Venus was an enemy aircraft.
Checking the astronomer’s report, I read over the concluding statement:
“It simply could not have been Venus. They must have been desperate
even to suggest it in the first place.”
Months later, in the secret Project “Saucer” report released December 30,
1949, I found official confirmation of this astronomer’s opinions. Since it
has a peculiar bearing on the Mantell case, I am quoting it now: When
Venus is at its greatest brilliance, it is possible to see it during daytime
when one knows exactly where to look. But on January 7, 1948, Venus was
less than half as bright as its peak brilliance. However, under exceptionally
good atmospheric conditions, and with the eye shielded from direct rays of
the sun, Venus might be seen as an exceedingly tiny bright point of light. . .
. However, the chances of looking at just the right spot are very few.
It has been unofficially reported that the object was a Navy cosmic-ray
research balloon. If this can be established, it Is to be preferred as an
explanation. However, if one accepts the assumption that reports from
various other localities refer to the same object, any such device must have
been a good many miles high–25 to 50–in order to have been seen
clearly, almost simultaneously, from places 175 miles apart.
If all reports were of a single object, in the knowledge of this investigator no
man-made object could have been large enough and far enough away for
the approximate simultaneous sightings. It is most unlikely, however, that
so many separated persons should at that time have chanced on Venus in
the daylight sky. It seems therefore much more probable that more than
one object was involved.
The sighting might have included two or more balloons (or aircraft) or they
might have included Venus and balloons. For reasons given above, the
latter explanation seems more likely.
Two things stand out in his report:
1. The obvious determination to fit some explanation, no matter how
farfetched, to the Mantell sighting.
2. The impossibility that Venus–a tiny point of light, seen only with difficulty-
-was the tremendous metallic object described by Mantell and seen by
Godman Field officers.
With Venus eliminated, I went to work on the balloon theory. Since I had
been a balloon pilot before learning to fly planes, this was fairly familiar
Shallett’s alternate theory that Mantell had chased a Navy research balloon
was widely repeated by readers unfamiliar with balloon operation. Few
thought to check the speeds, heights, and distances involved.
Cosmic-ray research balloons are not powered; they are set free to drift
with the wind. This particular Navy type is released at a base near
Minneapolis. The gas bag is filled with only a small per cent of its helium
capacity before the take-off.
In a routine flight, the balloon ascends rapidly to a very high altitude-as high
as 100,000 feet. By this time the gas bag has swelled to full size, about l00
feet high and 70 feet in diameter. At a set time, a device releases the case
of instruments under the balloon. The instruments descend by parachute,
and the balloon, rising quickly, explodes from the sudden expansion.
Occasionally a balloon starts leaking, and it then remains relatively low. At
first glance, this might seem the answer to the Kentucky sightings. If the
balloon were low enough, it would loom up as a large circular object, as
seen from directly below. Some witnesses might estimate its diameter as
250 feet or more, instead of its actual 70 feet. But this failure to recognize
a balloon would require incredibly poor vision on the part of trained
observers–state police, Army M.P.’s, the Godman Field officers, Mantell
and his pilots.
Captain Mantell was a wartime pilot, with over three thousand hours in the
air. He was trained to identify a distant enemy plane in a split second. His
vision was perfect, and so was that of his pilots. In broad daylight they
could not fail to recognize a balloon during their thirty-minute chase.
Colonel Hix and the other Godman officers watched the object with highpowered
glasses for long periods.
It is incredible that they would not identify it as a balloon.
Before its appearance over Godman Field, the leaking balloon would have
drifted, at a low altitude, over several hundred miles. (A leak large enough
to bring it down from high altitude would have caused it to land and be
found.) Drifting at a low altitude, it would have been seen by several
hundred thousand people, at the very least. Many would have reported it as
a balloon. But even if this angle is ignored it still could not possibly have
been a balloon at low altitude. The fast flight from Madisonville, the abrupt
stop and hour-long hovering at Godman Field, the quick bursts of speed
Mantell reported make it impossible. To fly the go miles from Madisonville
to Fort Knox in 30 minutes, a balloon would require a wind of 180 m.p.h.
After traveling at this hurricane speed, it would then have had to come to a
dead stop above Godman Field.
As the P-51’s approached, it would have had to speed tip again to 180,
then to more than 360 to keep ahead of Mantell.
The three fighter pilots chased the mysterious object for half an hour. (I
have several times chased balloons with a plane, overtaking them in
seconds.) In a straight chase, Mantell would have been closing in at 360;
the tail wind acting on his fighter would nullify the balloon’s forward drift.
But even if you accept these improbable factors, there is one final fact that
nullifies the balloon explanation.
The strange object had disappeared when Mantell’s wingman searched
the sky, just after the leader’s death.
If it had been a balloon held stationary for an hour at a high altitude, and
glowing brightly enough to be seen through clouds, it would have remained
visible in the same general position. Seen from 33,000 feet, it would have
been even brighter, because of the clearer air.
But the mysterious object had completely vanished in those few minutes. A
search covering a hundred miles failed to reveal a trace.
Whether at a high or low altitude, a balloon could not have escaped the
pilot’s eyes. It would also have continued to be seen at Godman Field and
other points, through occasional breaks in the clouds.
I pointed out these facts to one Air Force officer at the Pentagon. Next day
he phoned me:
“I figured it out. The timing device went off and the balloon exploded. That’s
why the pilot didn’t see it.”
“It’s an odd coincidence,” I said, “that it exploded in those five minutes after
Mantell’s last report.”
“Even so, it’s obviously the answer,” he said.
Checking on this angle, I found:
1. No one in the Kentucky area had reported a descending parachute.
2. No cosmic-ray research instrument case or parachute was found in the
3. No instruments were returned to the Navy from this region. And all
balloons and instruments released at that time were fully accounted for.
Even if it had been a balloon, it would not explain the later January 7th
reports–the simultaneous sightings mentioned by Professor Hynek in the
Project “Saucer” report. This includes the thing seen at Lockbourne Air
Force Base two hours after Mantell’s death.
Obviously, the saucer seen flying at 500 m.p.h. over Lockbourne Field
could not have been a balloon. Even if there had been several balloons in
this area (and there were not, by official record), they could not have
covered the courses reported. In some cases, they would have been flying
against the wind, at terrific speed.
Then what was the mysterious object? And what killed Mantell?
Both the Air Force and the Post articles speculate that Mantell carelessly
let himself black out.
Since some explanation had to be given, this might seem a good answer.
But Mantell was known for coolheaded judgment. As a wartime pilot, he
was familiar with signs of anoxia (oxygen starvation). That he knew his
tolerance for altitude is proved by his firmly declared intention to abandon
the chase at 20,000
feet, since he had no oxygen equipment.
Mantell had his altimeter to warn him. From experience, he would
recognize the first vague blurring, narrowing of vision, and other signs of
anoxia. Despite this, the “blackout” explanation was accepted as plausible
by many Americans.
While investigating the Mantell case, I talked with several pilots and
aeronautical engineers. Several questioned that a P-51 starting a dive
from 20,000 feet would have disintegrated so thoroughly.
“From thirty thousand feet, yes,” said one engineer. “If the idea was to
explain it away, I’d pick a high altitude to start from. But a pilotless plane
doesn’t necessarily dive, as you know.
“It might slip off and spin, or spiral down, and a few have even landed
themselves. Also, if the plane started down from twenty thousand, the pilot
wouldn’t be too far blacked out. The odds are he’d come to when he got
into thicker air–admitting he did blur out, which is only an Air Force guess. I
don’t see why they’re so positive Mantell died before he hit the ground–
unless they know something we don’t.”
One of the pilot group put it more bluntly.
“It looks like a cover-up to me. I think Mantell did just what he said he
would–close in on the thing. I think he either collided with it, or more likely
they knocked him out of the air. They’d think he was trying to bring them
down, barging in like that.”
Even if you accept the blackout answer, it still does not explain what
Mantell was chasing. it is possible that, excited by the huge, mysterious
object, he recklessly climbed beyond the danger level, though such an act
was completely at odds with his character.
But the identity of the thing remains–officially–a mystery. If it was some
weird experimental craft or a guided missile, then whose was it? Air Force
officers had repeatedly told me they had no such device.
General Carl Touhy Spaatz, former Air Force chief, had publicly insisted
that no such weapon had been developed in his regime. Secretary
Symington and General Hoyt Vandenberg, present Air Force chief, had
been equally emphatic. Of course, official denials could be expected if it
were a top-level secret. But if it were a secret device, would it be tested so
publicly that thousands would see it?
If it were an Air Force device, then I could see only one answer for the
Godman Field incident: The thing was such a closely guarded secret that
even Colonel Hix hadn’t known. That would mean that most or all Air Force
Base C.O.’s were also in ignorance of the secret device.
Could it be a Navy experiment, kept secret from the Air Force?
I did a little checking.
Admiral Calvin Bolster, chief of aeronautics research experimental craft,
was an Annapolis classmate of mine. So was Captain Delmer S. Fahrney,
head of the Navy guided-missile program. Fahrney was at Point Mugu,
missile-testing base in California, and I wasn’t able to see him. But I knew
him as a careful, conscientious officer; I can’t believe he would let such a
device, piloted or not, hover over an Air Force base with no warning to its
I saw Admiral Bolster. His denial seemed genuine; unless he’d got to be a
dead-pan poker player since our earlier days, I was sure he was telling the
The only other alternate was Russia. It was incredible that they would
develop such a device and then expose it to the gaze of U.S. Air Force
officers. It could be photographed, its speed and maneuverability checked;
it might crash, or antiaircraft fire might bring it down, The secret might be
lost in one such test flight.
There was one other explanation: The thing was not intended to be seen; it
had got out of control. In this event; the long hovering period at Godman
Field was caused by the need for repairs inside the flying saucer, or
repairs to remote-control apparatus.
If it were Air Force or Navy, that would explain official concern; even if
completely free of negligence, the service responsible would be blamed
for Mantell’s death. If it were Russian, the Air Force would of course try to
conceal the fact for fear of public hysteria.
But if the device was American, it meant that Project “Saucer” was a
cover-up unit. While pretending to investigate, it would actually hush up
reports, make false explanations, and safeguard the secret in every
possible way. Also, the reported order for Air Force pilots to pursue the
disks would have to be a fake.
Instead, there would be a secret order telling them to avoid strange objects
in the sky.
By the time I finished my check-up, I was sure of one thing: This particular
saucer had been real.
I was almost positive of one other point-that the thing had been over 30
miles high during part of its flight.
I found that after Mantell’s death it was reported simultaneously from
Madisonville, Elizabethtown, and Lexington–over a distance of 175 miles.
(Professor Hynek’s analysis later confirmed this.) How low it had been
while hovering over Godman, and during Mantell’s chase, there was no
way to determine. But all the evidence pointed to a swift ascent after
Mantell’s last report.
Had Mantell told Godman Tower more than the Air Force admitted? I went
back to the Pentagon and asked for a full transcript of the flight leader’s
radio messages. I got a quick turn-down. The reports, I was told, were still
classified as secret. Requests for pictures of the P-51 wreckage, and for a
report on the condition of Mantell’s body, also drew a blank. I had heard
that some photographs were taken of the Godman Field saucer from
outside the tower. But the Air Force denied knowledge of any such
Puzzling over the riddle, I remembered John Steele, the former Intelligence
captain. If by any chance he was a plant, it would be interesting to suggest
the various answers and watch his reaction. When I phoned him to suggest
luncheon, Steele accepted at once. We met at the Occidental, on
Steele was younger than I had expected–not over twenty-five. He was a tall
man, with a crew haircut and the build of a football player. Looking at him
the first time, I expected a certain breeziness. instead, he was almost
“I owe you an apology,” he said in a careful voice after we’d ordered. “You
probably know I’m a syndicate writer?”
I wondered if he’d found out Jack Daly was checking on him.
“When you mentioned the Press Club,” I said, “I gathered you were in the
“I’m afraid you thought I was fishing for a lead.” Steele looked at me
earnestly. “I’m not working on the story–I’m tied up on other stuff.”
“Forget it,” I told him.
He seemed anxious to reassure me. “I’d been worried for some time about
the saucers. I called you that night on an impulse.”
“Glad you did,” I said. “I need every tip I can get.”
“Did it help you any?”
“Yes, though it still doesn’t fit together. But I can tell you this: The saucers
are real, or at least one of them.”
“The thing Captain Mantell was chasing near Fort Knox, before he died.”
“Oh, that one.” Steele looked down at the roll he was buttering. “I thought
that case was fully explained.
Wasn’t he chasing a balloon?”
“The Air Force says it’s still unidentified.” I told him what I had learned.
“Apparently you’re right–it’s either an American or a Soviet missile.”
“After what you’ve told me,” said Steele, “I can’t believe it’s ours. It must be
“They’d be pretty stupid to test it over here.”
“You said it was probably out of control.”
“That particular one, maybe. But there have been several hundred seen
over here. If they found their controls were haywire, they wouldn’t keep
testing the things until they’d corrected that.”
The waiter came with the soup, and Steele was silent until he left.
“I still can’t believe it’s our weapon,” he said slowly. “They wouldn’t have Air
Force pilots alerted to chase the things. And I happen to how they do.”
“There’s something queer about this missile angle,” I said. “That saucer
was seen at the same time by people a hundred and seventy-five miles
apart. To be that high in the sky, and still look more than two hundred and
fifty feet in diameter, it must have been enormous.”
Steele didn’t answer for a moment.
“Obviously, that was an illusion,” he finally answered. “I’d discount those
“Even Mantell’s? And the Godman Field officers’?”
“Not knowing the thing’s height, how could they judge accurately?”
“To be seen at points that far apart, it had to be over thirty miles high,” I told
him. “It would have to be huge to show up at all.”
He shook his head. “I can’t believe those reports are right. It must have
been sighted at different times.”
I let it drop.
“What are you working on now?” Steele asked, after a minute or two.
I said I hadn’t decided. Actually, I planned a trip to the coast, to interview
pilots who had sighted flying disks.
“What would you do if you found it wasn’t a Soviet missile?” said Steele.
He sounded almost too casual.
“If security was involved, I’d keep still. But the Air Force and the Navy
swear they haven’t any such things.”
Steele looked at me thoughtfully.
“You know, True might force something into the open that would be better
left secret.” He smiled ironically.
“I realize that sounds peculiar, since I suggested the Russian angle. But if it
isn’t Russian–though I still think it is–then we have nothing to worry about.”
I was almost sure now that he was a plant. During the rest of the luncheon, I
tried to draw him out, but Steele was through talking. When we parted, he
gave me a sober warning.
“You and True should consider your moral responsibility, no matter what
you find. Even if it’s not actual security, there may be reasons to keep still.”
After he left me, I tried to figure it out. If the Air Force was back of this, they
must not think much of my intelligence. Or else they had been in such a
hurry to get a line on True’s investigation that they had no choice but to use
Steele. Of course, it was still possible he was doing this on his own, Either
way, his purpose was obvious. He hoped to have us swallow the Sovietmissile
answer. If we did, then we would have to keep still, even though we
found absolute proof. Obviously, it would be dangerous to print that story.
Thinking back, I recalled Steele’s apparent attempt to dismiss the Mantell
case. I was convinced now. The Godman Field affair must hold an
important clue that I had overlooked. It might even be the key to the whole
flying saucer riddle.
SHORTLY after my talk with Steele, I flew to the Coast. For three weeks I
investigated sightings that had been reported by airline and private pilots
and other competent witnesses.
At first, the airline pilots were reluctant to talk. Most of them remembered
the ridicule that had followed published accounts by other airline men. One
pilot told me he had been ordered to keep still about his experience–
whether by the company or the Air Force, he would not say. But most of
them finally agreed to talk, if I kept their names out of print.
One airline captain–I’ll call him Blake–had encountered a saucer at night.
He and his copilot had sighted the object, gleaming, in the moonlight, half a
mile to their left.
“We were at about twelve thousand feet,” he said, when we saw this thing
pacing us. It didn’t have any running lights, but we could see the moonlight
reflecting from something like bright metal. There was a glow along the
side, like some kind of light, or exhaust.”
“Could you make out the shape?” I asked.
Blake grinned crookedly. “You think we didn’t try? I cut in toward it. It turned
in the same direction. I pulled up about three hundred feet, and it did the
same. Finally, I opened my throttles and cut in fast, intending to pull tip if we
got too close. I needn’t have worried. The thing let out a burst of reddish
flame and streaked up out of sight. It was gone in a few seconds.”
“Then it must have been piloted,” I said.
“If not, it had some kind of radar-responder unit to make it veer off when
anything got near it. It matched every move I made, until the last one.”
I asked him what he thought the saucer was. Blake hesitated, then he gave
me a slow grin.
“Well, my copilot thinks it was a space ship. He says no pilot here on earth
could take that many G’s, when the thing zoomed.”
I’d heard some “men from Mars” opinions about the saucers, but this was
an experienced pilot.
“You don’t believe that?” I said.
“No,” Blake said. “I figure it was some new type of guided missile. If it took
as many G’s as Chuck, my copilot, thinks, then it must have been on a
beam and remote-controlled.”
Later, I found two other pilots who had the same idea as Chuck. One
captain was afraid the flying saucers were Russian; his copilot thought they
were Air Force or Navy. I met one airline official who was indignant about
testing such missiles near the airways.
“Even if they do have some device to make them veer off,” he said, “I think
it’s a risk. There’ll be hell to pay if one ever hits an airliner.”
“They’ve been flying around for two years,” a line pilot pointed out.
“Nobody’s had a close call yet. I don’t think there’s much danger.”
When I left the Coast, I flew to New York. Ken Purdy called in John
DuBarry, True’s aviation editor, to hear the details. Purdy called him “John
the Skeptic.” After I told them what I had learned Purdy nodded.
“What do you think the saucers are?” asked DuBarry.
“They must be guided missiles,” I said, “but it leaves some queer gaps in
I had made up a list of possible answers, and I read it to them:
“One, the saucers don’t exist. They’re caused by mistakes, hysteria, and so
on. Two, they’re Russian guided missiles. Three, they’re American guided
missiles. Four, the whole thing is a hoax, a psychological-warfare trick.”
“You mean a trick of ours?” said Purdy.
“Sure, to make the Soviets think we could reach them with a guided
missile. But I don’t think that’s the answer–I just listed it as a possibility.”
DuBarry considered this thoughtfully.
“In the first place, you’d have to bring thousands of people into the scheme,
so the disks would be reported often enough to get publicity. You’d have to
have some kind of device, maybe something launched from highflying
bombers, to give the rumors substance. They’d certainly do a better job
than this, to put it over.
And it wouldn’t explain the world-wide sightings. Also, Captain Mantell
wouldn’t kill himself just to carry out an official hoax.”
“John’s right,” said Purdy. “Anyway, it’s too ponderous. It would leak like a
sieve, and the dumbest Soviet agent would see through it.”
He looked back at my list. “Cross off Number One, There’s too much
competent testimony, beside the obvious fact that something’s being
“That leaves Russian or American missiles,” I said, “as Steele first
suggested. But there are some points that just won’t fit the missile theory.”
“You’ve left out one answer,” said Purdy.
“You’re kidding!” I said.
“I didn’t say I believed it,” said Purdy. “I just say it’s possible.”
DuBarry was watching me. “I know how you feel. That’s how it hit me when
Ken first said it,”
“I’ve heard it before,” I said. “But I never took it seriously.”
“Maybe this will interest you,” Purdy said. He gave me a note from Sam
“Just talked with D——-,” the note ran. (D——- is a prominent aeronautical
engineer, the designer of a world-famous plane.) “He believes the disks
may be interplanetary and that the Air Force knows it–or at least suspects
it. I’m enclosing sketches showing how he thinks the disks operate.”
“He’s not the first one who told us that,” said Purdy. “We’ve heard the same
thing from other engineers.
Over a dozen airline pilots think they’re coining from out in space. And
there’s a rocket expert at Wright Field who’s warned Project ‘Saucer’ that
the things are interplanetary. That’s why I’m not writing it off.”
“Have you read the Project ‘Saucer’ ideas on space travel?” DuBarry
asked me. I told him my copy hadn’t reached me. He read me some
marked paragraphs in his copy of the preliminary report:
“‘There has been speculation that the aerial phenomena might actually be
some form of penetration from another planet . . . the existence of
intelligent life on Mars is not impossible but is completely unproven . . .
the possibility of intelligent life on the Planet Venus is not considered
completely unreasonable by astronomers . . . Scientists concede that living
organisms might develop in chemical environments which are strange to
us . . . in the next fifty years we will almost certainly start exploring space . .
. the chance of space travelers existing at planets attached to neighboring
stars is very much greater than the chance of space-traveling Martians.
The one can be viewed as almost a certainty . . .'”
DuBarry handed me the report. “Here–I practically know it by heart. Take it
with you. You can send it back later.”
“I know the space-travel idea sounds silly at first,” said Purdy, “but it’s the
only answer that explains all the sightings-especially those in the last
He asked DuBarry to give me their file of historic reports. While John was
getting it, Purdy went on:
“Be careful about this man Steele. After what he said about ‘moral
responsibility’ I’m sure he’s planted.”
I thought back to Steele’s warning. I told Purdy: “If he had the space thing in
mind, maybe he’s right. It could set off a panic that would make that Orson
Welles thing look like a picnic.”
“Certainly it could,” Purdy said. “We’d have to handle it carefully-if it turned
out to be the truth. But I think the Air Force is making a mistake, if that’s
what they’re hiding. It could break the wrong way and be serious.”
John DuBarry came back with the file of old reports.
“It might interest you to know,” he said, “that the Air Force checked all
these old sightings too.”
The idea was still a difficult one for me to believe.
“Those space-travel suggestions might be a trick,” I said. “The Air Force
may be hinting at that to hide the guided-missile secret.”
“Yes, but later on they deny the space thing,” said Purdy. “It looks as if
they’re trying to put people on guard and then play it down, so they won’t
As I put the historic reports file in my brief case, Purdy handed me a letter
from an investigator named Hilton, who had been working in the
Southwest. I skimmed over his letter.
Hilton had heard of some unusual night sightings in New Mexico. The story
had been hushed up, but he had learned some details from a pilot at
One of these mysterious “flying lights” had been seen at Las Vegas, on
December 8, 1948–just one month before Mantell was killed in Kentucky. It
was too dark to make out the shape behind the light, but all witnesses had
agreed on its performance. The thing had climbed at tremendous speed,
its upward motion shown by a bright green light. Though the green glow
was much brighter than a plane’s running light, all plane schedules were
“I think they were trying to pin it on a jet fighter,” the Albuquerque pilot told
Hilton. “But there weren’t any jets near there. Anyway, the thing climbed too
fast. It must have been making close to nine hundred miles an hour.”
The Air Force had also checked balloon release times–apparently just for
the record, since no balloon could even approach the saucer’s terrific
ascent. Again, they drew a blank.
“From the way this was hushed up,” Hilton commented, “they seem to be
worried about this group of sightings. I’ve heard two reports that the F.B.I.
is tied into the deal somehow, but that’s as far as I can get.”
“See if you can get any lead on that,” Purdy told me. “That F.B.I. business
puzzles me. Where would they come in?”
I said I would try to find out. But it was almost four months before we
learned the answer: The F.B.I. men had been witnesses. (This was later
admitted in an obscure cross-reference in the final Project “Saucer”
report. But all official answers to the strange green-light sightings had been
carefully omitted. The cases concerned were 223, 224, 225, 226, 227,
230, and 231, which will be discussed later.
“When you go back to Washington,” said Purdy, “see what reaction you
get to the interplanetary idea.”
I had a pretty good idea what the reaction would be, but I nodded. “O.K. I’ll
go flag a space ship and be on my way.”
“O.K.–gag it up,” said Purdy. “But don’t sell it short, If by any chance it’s
true, it’ll be the biggest story since the birth of Christ.”
IT WAS DARK when the airliner limousine reached La Guardia Field. I had
intended taking an earlier plane, but DuBarry persuaded me to stay over
We dropped into the Algonquin, next door to True’s office building. Halfway
through dinner, I asked John what he thought of the space-travel answer.
“Oh, it’s possible,” he said cautiously. “The time and space angles make it
hard to take, but if we’re planning to explore space within fifty years, there’s
no reason some other planet people couldn’t do it. Of course, if they’ve
been observing us for over a century, as those old sightings seem to
indicate, they must be far ahead of us, at least in technical progress.”
Later on, he said thoughtfully, “Even though it’s possible, I hate to think it’s
the answer. just imagine the impact on the world. We’d have to reorient our
whole lives–and things are complicated enough already.”
Standing at the gate, waiting for my plane to be called, I thought over that
angle. Assuming that space travel was the solution–which I still couldn’t
believe-what would be the effect on the world?
It was a hard thing to picture. So much depended on the visitors from
space. What would their purpose be?
Would they be peaceful or hostile? Why had they been observing the earth
so intensively in the past few years?
I could think of a hundred questions. What would the space people be like?
Would they be similar to men and women on earth, or some fearsome
Buck Rogerish creatures who would terrify the average American–
It was obvious they would be far superior to us in many ways. But their
civilization might be entirely different. Evolution might have developed their
minds, and possibly their bodies, along lines we couldn’t even grasp.
Perhaps we couldn’t even communicate with them.
What would be the net effect of making contact with beings from a distant
planet? Would earthlings be terrified, or, if it seemed a peaceful
exploration, would we bc intrigued by the thought of a great adventure?
It would depend entirely on the space visitors’ motives, and how the world
was prepared for such a revelation.
The more I thought about it, the more fantastic thc thing seemed.
And yet it hadn’t been too long since airplane flight was considered an
idiot’s dream. This scene here at La Guardia would have seemed pure
fantasy in 1900–thc huge Constellations and DC-6’s; the double-decked
Stratocruisers, sweeping in from all over the country; the big ships at Pan-
American, taking off for points all over the globe. We’d come a long way in
the forty-six years since the Wright brothers’ first flight.
But space travel!
The gateman checked my ticket, and I went out to the Washington plane. It
was a luxury ship, a fifty-two-passenger, four-engined DC-6, scheduled to
be in the capital one hour after take-off. By morning this plane, the Aztec,
would be in Mexico City.
The couple going up the gangway ahead of me were in their late sixties.
Fifty years ago, what would they have said if someone had predicted this
flight? The answer to that was easy; at that time, high-school songbooks
featured a well-known piece entitled “Darius Green and His Flying
Machine.” Darius, it seems, was a simple-minded lad who actually thought
he could fly.
Fifty years. That was the time the Air Force had estimated it would take us
to start exploring space. Would Americans come to accept space travel as
matter-of-factly as the people now boarding this plane? The youngsters
would, probably; the older ones, as a rule, would be a little more cautious.
In the oval lounge at the rear of the plane, I took out the file of old sighting
reports. Glancing through it, I, saw excerpts from nineteenth-century
astronomical and scientific journals and extracts from official gazettes.
Most of the early sightings had been in Great Britain and on the Continent,
with a few reports scattered around the world. The American reports did
not begin until the latter part of the century.
The DC-6 rolled out and took off. For a few minutes I watched the lights of
Manhattan and Greater New York twinkling below. The Empire State
Building tower was still above us, as the plane banked over the East River.
We climbed quickly, and the familiar outline of Manhattan took shape like a
map pin-pointed with millions of lights.
Any large city seen from the air at night has a certain magic, New York
most of all. Looking down, I thought: What would a spaceman think, seeing
this brilliantly lighted city, the towering skyscrapers? Would other planets
have such cities, or would it be something new and puzzling to a visitor
Turning back to the old reports, I skipped through until I found the American
sightings. One of the first was an incident at Bonham, Texas, in the
summer of 1873.
It was broad daylight when a strange, fast-moving object appeared in the
sky, southwest of the town. For a moment, the people of Bonham stared at
the thing, not believing their eves. The only flying device then known was
the drifting balloon. But this thing was tremendous, and speeding so fast its
outlines were almost a blur.
Terrified farmers dived under their wagons. Townspeople fled indoors.
Only a few hardy souls remained in the streets. The mysterious object
circled Bonham twice, then raced off to the cast and vanished.
Descriptions of the strange machine varied from round or oval to cigarshaped.
(The details of the Bonham sighting were later confirmed for me
by Frank Edwards, Mutual network newscaster, who investigated this
Twenty-four hours after the Bonham incident, a device of the same
description appeared at Fort Scott, Kansas. Panic-stricken soldiers fled
the parade ground as the thing flashed overhead. In a few seconds it
disappeared, circling toward the north.
Until now, I had supposed that the term “saucer” was original with Kenneth
Arnold. Actually, the first to compare a flying object with a saucer was John
Martin, a farmer who lived near Denison, Texas. The Denison Daily News
of January 25, 1878, gives the following account: From Mr. John Martin, a
farmer who lives some six miles south of this city, we learn the following
strange story: Tuesday morning while out hunting, his attention was
directed to a dark object high up in the southern sky. The peculiar shape
and velocity with which the object seemed to approach riveted his attention
and he strained his eves to discover its character.
When first noticed, it appeared to be about the size of an orange, which
continued to grow in size. After gazing at it for some time Mr. Martin
became blind from long looking and left off viewing it for a time in order to
rest his eyes. On resuming his view, the object was almost overhead and
had increased considerably in size, and appeared to be going through
space at wonderful speed.
When directly over him it was about the size of a large saucer and was
evidently at great height. Mr. Martin thought it resembled, as well as he
could judge, a balloon. It went as rapidly as it had come and was soon lost
to sight in the heavenly skies. Mr. Martin is a gentleman of undoubted
veracity and this strange occurrence, if it was not a balloon, deserves the
attention of our scientists.
In the file, I saw a memo DuBarry had written:
“I would take the very early reports with caution. For instance, the one on
August 9, 1762, which describes an odd, spindle-shaped body traveling at
high speed toward the sun. I recall that Charles Fort accepted this, along
with other early sightings, as evidence of space ships. But this particular
thing might have been a meteor–meteors as such were almost unknown
then. The later reports are more convincing, and it is also easier to check
the sources, especially those from 1870 on.”
From 1762 to 1870, the reports were meager. Some described
mysterious lights in the sky; a few mentioned round objects seen in
daylight. Even though they were not so fully documented as later ones, one
point struck me. In those days, there was no telegraph, telephone, or radio
to spread news rapidly and start a flood of rumors. A sighting in Scotland
could not be the cause of a similar one two days later in the south of
Beginning in 870, there was a series of reports that went on to the turn of
the century. In the London Times, September 26, 1870, there was a
description of a queer object that was seen crossing the moon. It was
reported as elliptical, with some kind of tail, and it took almost thirty
seconds to complete its passage of the moon. Then in 1871, a large,
round body was sighted above Marseilles, France. This was on August 1.
It moved slowly across the sky, apparently at great height, and was visible
about fifteen minutes.
On March 22, 1880, several brilliantly luminous objects were reported seen
at Kattenau, Germany. Sighted just before sunrise, they were described as
rising from the horizon and moving from east to west. The account was
published in the British Nature Magazine, Volume 22, page 64.
The next report in the file mentioned briefly a strange round object seen in
the skies over Bermuda. The source for this account was the Bermuda
Royal Gazette. This was in 1885. That same year, an astronomer and
other witnesses reported a gigantic aerial object at Adrianople, Turkey. On
November 1, the weird apparition was seen moving across the sky.
Observers described it as round and four to five times the size of the
This estimate is similar to the Denison, Texas, comparison with an orange.
The object would actually be huge to be seen at any great height. But
unless the true height were known, any estimate of size would be
On March 19, 1887, two strange objects fell into the sea near a Dutch
barkentine. As described by the skipper, Captain C. D. Sweet, one of the
objects was dark, the other brightly luminous. The glowing object fell with a
loud roaring sound; the shipmaster was positive it was not a meteor.
In New Zealand, a year later, an oval-shaped disk was reported speeding
high overhead. This was on May 4, 1888. About two years after this,
several large aerial bodies were sighted hovering over the Dutch East
Indies. [p. 60] Most accounts described them as roughly triangular, about
one hundred feet on the base and two hundred feet on the sides. But some
observers thought they might be longer and narrower, with a rounded base;
this would make them agree with more recent stories of cone-shaped
objects with rounded tops seen in American skies.
On August 26, 1894, a British admiral reported sighting a large disk with a
projection like a tail. And a year after this, both England and Scotland
buzzed with stories of triangular-shaped objects like those seen in the
Dutch East Indies. Although many officials scoffed at the stories, more than
one astronomer stuck to his belief that the mysterious things might be
coming from outer space. Since planes and dirigibles were then unknown,
there was no one on earth who could have been responsible for them.
In 1897, sightings in the United States began to be more frequent. One of
the strangest reports describes an incident that began on April 9. Flying at
a great height, a huge cigar-shaped device was seen in the Midwest.
Short wings projected from the sides of the object, according to reports of
astronomers who watched it through telescopes.
For almost a week, the aerial visitor was sighted around the Midwest, as
far south as St. Louis and as far west as Colorado. Several times, red,
green, and white lights were seen to flash in the sky; some witnesses
thought the crew of this strange craft might be trying to signal the earth.
On April 16, the thing, whatever it was, disappeared from the Midwest. But
on April 19, the same object–or else a similar one–appeared over West
Virginia. Early that morning the town of Sisterville was awakened by blasts
of the sawmill whistle. Those who went outside their homes saw a strange
sight. From a torpedo-shaped object overhead, dazzling searchlights were
pointing downward, sweeping the countryside. The thing appeared to be
about two hundred feet long, some thirty feet in diameter, with stubby wings
and red and green lights along the sides. For almost ten minutes the aerial
visitor circled the town, then it swung eastward and vanished.
The next report was published in the U.S. Weather Bureau’s monthly
Weather Review. On page 115 in the March 1904 issue, there is an
account of an odd sighting at sea. On February 24, 1904, a mysterious
light had been seen above the Atlantic by crew members of the U.S.S.
Supply. It was moving swiftly, and evidently at high altitude. The report was
attested by Lieutenant Frank H. Schofield, U.S.N.
On July 2, 1907, a mysterious explosion occurred, in the heavens near
Burlington, Vermont. Some witnesses described a strange, torpedoshaped
device circling above. Shortly after it was seen, a round, luminous
object flashed down from the sky, then exploded, (Weather Review, 1907,
page 310.) Another cigar-shaped craft was reported at a low altitude over
Bridgewater, Massachusetts, in 1905. Like the one at Sisterville, it carried
searchlights, which swept back and forth across the countryside. After a
few moments, the visitor rose in a steep climb, and the searchlights
There was no report for 1909 in America, though an odd aerial object was
sighted near the Galapagos Islands. But in 1910, one January morning, a
large silvery cigar-shaped device startled Chattanooga. After about five
minutes, the thing sped away, appearing over Huntsville, Alabama, shortly
afterward. It made a second appearance over Chattanooga the next day,
then headed east and was never seen again.
In Popular Astronomy, January 27, 1012, a Dr. F. B. Harris described an
intensely black object that he saw crossing the moon. As nearly as he
could tell, it was gigantic in size–though again there was no way to be sure
of its distance from him or the moon. With careful understatement, Dr.
Harris said, “I think a very interesting and curious phenomenon happened
A strange shadow was noted on the clouds at Fort Worth, Texas, on April
8, 19, 3. It appeared to be caused by some large body hovering
motionless above the clouds. As the cloud layer moved, the shadow
remained in the same position. Then it changed size, diminishing, and
quickly disappeared, as if it had risen vertically.
A report on this was given in the Weather Bureau Review of that year,
By 1919, dirigibles were of course well known to most of the world. When a
dirigible-shaped object appeared over Huntington, West Virginia, in July of
that year, there was no great alarm. It was believed to be an American
blimp, though the darkness–it was eleven at night–prevented observers
from being sure.
But a later check-up proved it was not an American ship, nor was it from
any country possessing such craft.
For some time after this, there were few authentic reports. Then in 1934,
Nicholas Roerich, head of the American-Roerich expedition into Tibet, had
a remarkable experience that bears on the saucer riddle.
On pages 361 and 362 of his book Altai Himalaya, Roerich describes the
incident. The expedition party was in the wilds of Tibet one morning when a
porter noticed the peculiar actions of a buzzard overhead. He called
Roerich’s attention to it; then they all saw something high in the sky, moving
at great speed from north to south. Watching it through binoculars, Roerich
saw it was oval-shaped, obviously of huge size, and reflecting the sun’s
rays like brightly polished metal. While he trailed it with his glasses, the
object suddenly changed direction, from south to southwest. It was gone in
a few moments.
This was the last sighting listed before World War II.
When I had finished, I stared out the plane window, curiously disturbed.
Like most people, I had grown up believing the earth was the center of
everything–life, intelligence, and religion. Now, for the first time in my life,
that belief was shaken.
It was a curious thing. I could accept the idea that we would eventually
explore space, land on the moon, and go on to distant planets. I had read
of the plans, and I knew our engineers and scientists would somehow find
a way. It did not disturb my belief in our superiority.
But faced with this evidence of a superior race in the universe, my mind
rebelled. For years, I had been accustomed to thinking in comic-strip terms
of any possible spacemen–Buck Rogers stuff, with weird-looking space
ships and green-faced Martians.
But now, if these sightings were true, the shoe was on the other foot. We
would be faced with a race of beings at least two hundred years ahead of
our civilization–perhaps thousands. In their eyes, we might look like
My conjectures before the take-off had just been idle thinking; I had not
really believed this could be the answer. But now the question came back
sharply. How would we react to a sudden appearance of space ships,
bringing that higher race to the earth? If we were fully prepared, educated
to this tremendous adventure, it might come off without trouble.
Unprepared, we would be thrown into panic.
The lights of Philadelphia showed up ahead, and a thought struck me.
What would Philadelphians of 1776
have thought to see this DC-6 flying across their city at three hundred miles
an hour? What would the sentries at Valley Forge have done, a year later,
if this lighted airliner had streaked over their heads?
Madness. Stampede. Those were the plain answers.
But there was a difference now. We had had modern miracles, radio,
television, supersonic planes, and the promise of still more miracles. We
could be educated, or at least partly prepared, to accept space visitors.
In fifty years we had learned to fly. In fifty years more, we would be
exploring space. Why should we believe such creative intelligence was
limited to the earth? It would be incredible if the earth, out of all the millions
of planets, proved the only inhabited spot in the whole universe.
But, instinctively, I still fought against believing that the flying saucers were
space ships. Eventually, we would make contact with races on other
planets; they undoubtedly would someday visit the earth. But if it could be
put off . . . a problem for later generations to handle . . .
If the disks proved American guided missiles, it would be an easier
Looking through the Project “Saucer” report DuBarry had loaned me, I
read the space-travel items, hoping to find some hint that this was a smoke
screen. On page 18, in a discussion on Mars, I found this comment:
“Reports of strange objects seen in the skies have been handed down
through the generations. However, scientists believe that if Martians were
now visiting the earth without establishing contact, it could be assumed that
they have just recently succeeded in space travel, and that their civilization
would be practically abreast of ours. This because they find it hard to
believe that any technically established race would come here, flaunt its
ability in mysterious ways over the years, but each time simply go way
without ever establishing contact.”
There could be several answers to that. The Martians might not be able to
live in our atmosphere, except in their sealed space ships. They, or some
other planet race, could have observed us periodically to check on our
slow progress. Until we began to approach their level of civilization, or in
some way caused them concern, they would probably see no reason for
trying to make contact. But somehow I found a vague comfort in the
argument, full of holes though it was.
Searching further, I found other space-travel comments. On one page, the
Air Force admitted it was almost a certainty that space travelers would be
operating from planets outside the solar system. But on the following page,
I discovered this sentence: “Thus, although visits from outer space are
believed to be possible, they are thought to be highly improbable.”
What was the answer? Was this just a wandering discussion of
possibilities, badly put together, or was it a hint of the truth? it could be the
first step in preparing America for a revelation. It could also be a carefully
This whole report might be designed to conceal a secret weapon. If the Air
Force or the Navy did have a secret missile, what better way to distract
attention? The old sighting reports could have been seized on as a buildup
for space travel hints.
Then suddenly it hit me.
Even if it were a smoke screen, what of those old reports?
They still remained to be answered. There was only one possible
explanation, unless you discarded the sightings as lies. That meant
discrediting many reliable witnesses–naval officers, merchant
shipmasters, explorers, astronomers, ministers, and responsible public
officials. [p. 65] Besides all these, there had been thousands of other
witnesses, where large groups had seen the objects.
The answer seemed inevitable, but I held it off. I didn’t want to believe it,
with all the changes it might bring, the unpredictable effect upon our
If I kept on checking I might find evidence that would bring a different
explanation for the present saucers.
DuBarry had put another group of reports in the envelope; this series
covered the World War II phase and on up to the outbreak of the saucer
scare in the United States. Some of it, about the foo fighters, I already
knew. This was tied in with the mystery rockets reported over Sweden. The
first Swedish sightings had occurred during the early part of the war. Most
of the so-called “ghost rockets” were seen at night, moving at tremendous
speed. Since they came from the direction of Germany, most Swedes
believed that guided rockets were the answer.
During the summer of 1946, after the Russians had taken over
Peenemunde, the Nazi missile test base, ghost rockets again were
reported flying over Sweden. Some were said to double back and fly into
Soviet areas. Practically all were seen at night, and therefore none had
been described as a flying disk. Instead, they were said to be colored
lights, red, green, blue, and orange, often blurred from their high speed.
But there was a puzzling complication. Mystery lights, and sometimes flying
disks, were simultaneously reported over Greece, Portugal, Turkey, Spain,
and even French Morocco. Either there were two answers, or some nation
had developed missiles with an incredibly long range.
By January 1947, ghost-rocket sightings in Europe had diminished to less
than one a month. Oddly enough, the first disk report admitted by Project
“Saucer” was in this same month. The first ’47 case detailed by Project
“Saucer” occurred at Richmond, Virginia. It was about the middle of April.
A Richmond weather observer had released a balloon and was tracking it
with a theodolite when a strange object crossed his field of vision. He
swung the theodolite and managed to track the thing, despite its high
speed. (The actual speed and altitude–the latter determined by a
comparison of the balloon’s height at various times–have never been
released. Nor has the Air Force released this observer’s report on the
object’s size, which Project
“Saucer” admitted was more accurate than most witnesses’ estimates.)
About the seventeenth of May 1947, a huge oval-shaped saucer ten times
longer than its diameter was sighted by Byron Savage, an Oklahoma City
pilot. Two days later, another fast-flying saucer was reported at Manitou
Springs, Colorado. In the short time it was observed, it was seen to
change direction twice, maneuvering at an unbelievable speed.
Then on June 24 came Kenneth Arnold’s famous report, which set off the
saucer scare. The rest of the story I now knew almost by heart.
When the DC-6 landed at Washington, I had made one decision. Since it
was impossible to check up on most of the old sightings, I would
concentrate on certain recent reports–cases in which the objects had been
described as space ships.
As I waited for a taxi, I looked up at the sky. It was a clear summer night,
without a single cloud. Beyond the low hill to the west I could see the stars.
I can still remember thinking, If it’s true, then the stars will never again seem
NEXT MORNING, in the broad light of day, the idea of space visitors
somehow had lost its menace. If the disks were space ships, at least they
had shown no sign of hostility, so far as I knew. Of course, there was
Mantell; but if he had been downed by some weapon on the disk, it could
have been self-defense. In most cases, the saucers retreated at the first
sign of pursuit.
My mind was still reluctant to accept the space-travel answer, in spite of
the old reports. But I kept thinking of the famous aircraft designer who
thought the disks were space craft; the airline pilots Purdy had mentioned;
Blake’s copilot, Chuck. . . .
Now that I recalled it, Blake had been more embarrassed than seemed
called for when he told about Chuck.
Perhaps he had been the one who believed the saucers were space ships,
instead of his absent copilot.
After breakfast, I went over the list of sightings since June 1947. There
were several saucers that actually had been described as projectile-like
ships. The most famous of all was the Eastern Airlines case.
It was 8:30 P.M., July 23, 1948, when an Eastern Airlines DC-3 took off
from Houston, Texas, on a flight to Atlanta and Boston. The airliner captain
was Clarence S. Chiles. During the war, he had been in the Air Transport
Command, with the rank of lieutenant colonel. He had 8,500 flying hours.
His first officer was John B. Whitted, a wartime pilot on B-29’s. Both men
were known in Eastern as careful, conservative pilots.
It was a bright, moonlit night, with scattered clouds overhead. The DC-3
was twenty miles west of Montgomery, at 2:45 A.M., when a brilliant
projectile-like craft came hurtling along the airway.
Chiles saw it first and took it to be a jet plane. But the next instant both
pilots saw that this was no jet fighter.
“It was heading southwest,” Chiles said later, “exactly opposite to our
course. Whatever it was, it flashed down toward us at terrific speed. We
veered to the left. It veered sharply, too, and passed us about seven
hundred feet to the right. I saw then that it had no wings.”
The mystery ship passed on Whitted’s side, and he had a fairly close look.
“The thing was about one hundred feet long, cigar-shaped, and wingless,”
he described it. “It was about twice the diameter of a B-twenty-nine, with no
Captain Chiles said the cabin appeared like a pilot compartment, except
for its eerie brilliance. Both he and Whitted agreed it was as bright as a
magnesium flare. They saw no occupants, but at their speed this was not.
“An intense dark-blue glow came from the side of the ship,” Chiles
reported. (It was later suggested by engineers that the strange glare could
have come from a power plant of unusual type.) “It ran the entire length of
the fuselage–like a blue fluorescent light. The exhaust was a red-orange
flame, with a lighter color predominant around the outer edges.”
Both pilots said the flame extended thirty to fifty feet behind the ship. As it
passed, Chiles noted a snout like a radar pole. Both he and Whitted
glimpsed two rows of windows.
“Just as it went by,” said Chiles, “the pilot pulled up as if he had seen the
DC-three and wanted to avoid its.
There was a tremendous burst of flame from the rear. It zoomed into the
clouds, its jet wash rocking our DC-three.”
Chiles’s estimate of the mystery ship’s speed was between five hundred
and seven hundred miles an hour.
As the object vanished, Chiles went back into the cabin to check with the
passengers. Most had been asleep or were drowsing. But one man
confirmed that they were in their right senses. This passenger, Clarence
McKelvie of Columbus, Ohio, told them (and a Project “Saucer” team later)
that he had seen a brilliant streak of light flash past his window. It had gone
too swiftly for him to catch any details.
The A.P. interviewed Mr. McKelvie soon after he landed, and ran the
“Kennett Square, Pa., July 24 (AP) . Clarence L. McKelvie, assistant
managing editor of the American Education Press, said he was the only
passenger on the EAL Houston-Boston plane who was not asleep when
the phantom craft was sighted.
“‘I saw no shape or form,’ Mr. McKelvie said. ‘I was on the right side of the
plane, and suddenly I saw this strange eerie streak out of my window. It
was very intense, not like lightning or anything I had ever seen.’
“The Columbus man said he was too startled and the object moved too
quickly for him to adjust his eyes to it.”
In Washington, Air Force officials insisted they could shed no light on the
mystery. Out in Santa Monica, General George C. Kenney, then chief of the
Strategic Air Command, declared the Air Force had nothing remotely like
the ship described.
“I wish we did,” General Kenney told reporters. “I’d sure like to see that.”
The publicized story of this “space ship” set off another scare–also the
usual cracks about screwball pilots.
But Chiles and Whitted were not screwballs; they were highly respected
pilots. The passenger’s confirmation added weight. But even if all three
had been considered deluded, the Air Force investigators could not get
around the reports from Robbins Air Force Base.
Just about one hour before the DC-3 incident, a strange flaming object
came racing southward through the night skies over Robbins Field, at
Macon, Georgia. Observers at the air base were astounded to see what
appeared to be a huge, wingless craft streak overhead, trailing a
varicolored exhaust. (The witnesses’
description tallied with those of Chiles and Whitted.) The mystery ship
vanished swiftly; all observers agreed that it disappeared from the line of
sight just like a normal aircraft.
While I was working on this case, a contact in Washington gave me an
“Within forty-eight hours after that Eastern sighting, Air Force engineers
rushed out blueprint plans and elevations of the ‘space ship,’ based on
what the two pilots told them.”
Whether or not this was true, I found that the Air Force engineers did
compute the probable speed and lift of the mystery craft. The ship was
found to be within the bounds of aerodynamic laws for operations in our
atmosphere. Here is the Air Force statement:
“Application of the Prandtl theory of lift indicated that a fuselage of the
dimensions reported by Chiles and Whitted could support a load
comparable to the weight of an aircraft of this size, at flying speeds in the
sub-sonic range.” (This supports Chiles’s estimate of 500-700 m.p.h.) Four
days after the space-ship story was published, a Navy spokesman was
quoted as hinting it might have been a high-atmosphere rocket gone
astray from the proving grounds in New Mexico. The brief report appeared
on the editorial page of the Washington Star on July 28, 1947. It ran as
“The Navy says that naval technicians have been testing a 3,000-mile-perhour
rocket in New Mexico. If one went astray, it could travel across our
continent in a short time.”
At first glance I thought this might be the real answer to the Chiles-Whitted
case. But after a few minutes I saw it was almost impossible.
First, rockets at White Sands are launched and controlled with utmost
care. There have been no reported cases of such a long-distance runaway.
Second, if such a rocket had gone astray, it would certainly have caused
wild confusion at White Sands until they found where it landed. Hundreds of
people would have known about it; the story would be certain to leak out.
Third, such a rocket would have had to travel from White Sands to Macon,
Georgia, then circle around south of this city for over forty minutes. (If it had
kept on at the speed observed at Robbins Field, it would have passed
Montgomery long before the DC-3 reached the area.) In addition, the
rocket would have had to veer sharply away from the airliner, as both pilots
testified, and then zoom into the clouds. No high-atmosphere test rocket
has automatic controls such as this would require. And if it had gone astray
from White Sands, the station’s remote control would no longer be guiding
The Eastern Airlines “space ship,” then, was not just a fugitive rocket. But it
could be a new type of aircraft, something revolutionary, developed in
Other airline pilots had reported flying disks racing along the airways,
though none that I knew of had described projectile-like objects. Chiles and
Whitted insisted the mystery ship was not a disk, and the report from
Robbins Field agreed on this point. Man-made devices or not, it seemed
fairly certain there was more than one type of saucer.
The more I studied the evidence, the harder it was to believe that this was
an earth-made ship. Such a wingless rocket ship would require
tremendous jet power to keep it in the air. Even our latest jet bombers
could not begin to approach its performance.
Going back over the Project “Saucer” preliminary report, I found strong
evidence that the Air Force was worried. In their investigation, Project
teams had screened 225 military and civilian flight schedules. After nine
months, they reported that the mysterious object was no conventional
On April 27, 1949, the Air Force admitted that Project “Saucer” had failed
to find the answer. The “space ship” was officially listed as unidentified.
“But Wright Field is still working on it,” an Air Force officer told me. “Both
Chiles and Whitted are responsible pilots, and McKelvie has a reputation
for making careful statements. Even without the Robbins Field
confirmation, no one could doubt that they saw something.”
The Chiles-Whitted “space ship” was not the first of this type to be
reported. Another wingless aircraft was sighted in August 1947, by two
pilots for an Alabama flying service. It was at Bethel, Alabama, just after
sunset, when a huge black wingless craft swept across their course.
Silhouetted against the evening sky, it loomed larger than a C-54. The
pilots saw no wings, motors, or jet exhausts.
Swinging in behind the mystery ship, they attempted to follow. But at their
speed of 170 m.p.h. they were quickly outdistanced. Careful checking
showed there were no other planes nearby that could have been mistaken
for this strange craft.
On New Year’s Day, 1948, a similar rocket-shaped object was sighted at
Jackson, Mississippi. It was first seen by a former Air Force pilot and his
passenger, and later by witnesses on the ground. Before the pilot could
begin to close in, the odd wingless ship pulled away. Speeding up from
200 to 500 m.p.h., it swiftly disappeared.
Besides these two cases, already on record, I had the tips Purdy had given
me. One wingless ship was supposed to have been seen three or four
days before the Chiles-Whitted sighting; like the thing they reported, the
unidentified craft was a double-decked “space ship” but moving at even
higher speed. At first I ran into a stone wall trying to check this story. Then I
found a lead conforming that this was a foreign report. It finally proved to be
from The Hague.
The tip had been right. This double-decked, wingless ship had been
sighted on July 20, 1948–four days before the Eastern case. Witnesses
had reported it at a high altitude, moving at fantastic speed.
While working on this report, I verified another tip. We had heard a rumor
of a space-ship sighting at Clark Field, in the Philippine Islands. Although I
didn’t learn the date, I found that there was such a record.
(In the final Project “Saucer” report, the attempt to explain away this
sighting was painfully evident.
Analyzing this case, Number 206, the Air Force said: “If the facts are
correct, there is no astronomical explanation. A few points favor the
daytime meteor hypothesis–snow-white color, speed faster than a jet, the
roar, similarity to sky-writing and the time of day. But the tactics, if really
performed, oppose it strenuously: the maneuvers in and out of cloud
banks, turns of 180 degrees or more, Possibly these were illusions,
caused by seeing the object intermittently through clouds. The impression
of a fuselage with windows could even more easily have been a sign of
(With this conjecture, Project “Saucer” listed the sighting as officially
answered. The Hague space-ship case was unexplained.)
In following up the Jackson and Bethel reports, I talked with two officials in
the Civil Aeronautics Administration. One of these was Charley Planck,
who handled public relations. I found that the pilots concerned had good
records; C.A.A. men who knew them discounted the hoax theory.
“Charley, there’s a rumor that airline pilots have been ordered not to talk,” I
told Planck. “You know anything about it?”
“You mean ordered by the Air Force or the companies?” he said.
“The Air Force and the C.A.A.”
“If the C.A.A.’s in on it, it’s a top-level deal,” said Charley. “I think it’s more
likely the companies–with or without a nudge from the Air Force.”
While we were talking, an official from another agency came in. Because
the lead he gave me was off the record, I’ll call him Steve Barrett. I knew
Steve fairly well. We were both pilots with service training; our paths had
crossed during the war, and I saw him now and then at airports around
When the saucer scare first broke, Steve had been disgusted. “Damn
fools trying to get publicity,” he snorted. “The way Americans fall for a gag!
Even the Air Force has got the jitters.”
So I was a little surprised to find he now thought the disks were real.
“What sold you?” I asked.
“The radar reports,” said Steve. “I know of half a dozen cases where
they’ve tracked the things. One was in Japan. The thing was climbing so
fast no one believed the radarmen at first. Then they got some more
reports. One was up in Canada. There was a case in New Mexico, and I
think a Navy destroyer tracked a saucer up in the North Atlantic.”
“What did they find out?” said Charley Planck.
Steve shrugged. “I don’t know all the answers. Whatever they are, the
things can go like hell.”
I had a hunch he was holding back. I waited until he had finished with
Charley, and then went, down the hall with him.
“You think the saucers are guided missiles?” I said. “If I thought so, I
wouldn’t be talking,” he said flatly,
“That’s not a dig at you. But I was cleared last year for some secret
electronics work, and it might be used in some way with guided missiles.”
“I didn’t know that, Steve.”
“It’s O.K.,” he said. “I don’t mind talking, because can’t believe the saucers
are guided missiles. Maybe few of the things sighted out in the Southwest
have beer our test rockets, but that doesn’t explain the radar reports in
Canada and Japan.”
“I’d already heard about a radar case in Labrador,” I told Steve. He looked
at me quickly.
“Where’d you pick that up;”
“True passed it on to me,” I said.
“They’ve had some trouble tracking the things, they maneuver so fast,” said
Steve. “It sounds crazy, but I’ve been told they hit more than ten thousand
miles an hour.”
“You believe it.?”
“Well, it’s not impossible. Those saucers were tracked about fifty miles up,
where there’s not much resistance.”
The elevator door opened. Steve waited until we were outside of the
“There’s one other thing that gets me,” he said. “Unless the radar boys are
way off, some of those saucers are enormous. I just can’t see a guided
missile five hundred feet in diameter.” He stopped for a moment. “I
suppose this will sound screwy to you–”
“You think they’re interplanetary,” I said.
Steve was quickly on the defensive. “I haven’t bought it yet, but it’s not as
crazy as it sounds.”
Without mentioning names, I told him about the aircraft designer and the
“They’re in good company,” said Steve. “You know the Air Institute?”
“Sure–the Air Force school down at Montgomery.”
“Six months ago, I was talking with an officer who’d been instructing there.”
Steve looked at me, deadly serious. “He told me they are now teaching
that the saucers are probably space ships.”
THREE DAYS after my meeting with Steve Barrett, I was on a Mainliner
300, starting, a new phase of the saucer investigation. By the time I
returned, I hoped to know the truth about Project “Saucer.”
As the ship droned westward, fourteen thousand feet above the
Alleghenies, I thought of what Steve had told me. I believed, that he had
told me about the radar tracking. And I was fairly sure he believed the Air
Institute story. But I wasn’t so certain the story itself was true.
It would hardly be a gag; Steve wasn’t easily taken in. It was more likely that
one Institute officer, or perhaps several, believed the saucers were space
craft and aired their personal opinions. The Institute wasn’t likely to give an
official answer to something that Project “Saucer” still declared unsolved.
If it were possible to get an inside look at Project “Saucer” operations, I
could soon tell whether it was an actual investigation or a deliberate coverup
for something else. Whichever it was, the wall of official.
secrecy still hid it.
As a formality, I had called the Pentagon again and asked to talk with
some of the Project officers. As I expected, I was turned down. The only
alternative was to dig out the story by talking with pilots and others who had
been. quizzed by Project teams. I had several leads, and True had
arranged some interviews for me.
My first stop was Chicago, where I met an airline official and two
commercial pilots. I saw the pilots first.
Since they both talked in confidence, I will not use their right names. One, a
Midwesterner I already knew, I’ll call Pete Farrell; the other, a wartime
instructor, Art Green.
Pete was about thirty-one, stocky, blue-eyed, with a pleasant, intelligent
face. Art Green was a little older, a lean, sunburned, restless man with an
emphatic voice. Pete had served with the Air Force during the war; he was
now part owner of a flying school, also a pilot in the Air National Guard.
Green was working for an air charter service
We met at the Palmer House. Art Green didn’t need much prompting to
talk about Project “Saucer.” After reporting a disk, seen during a West
Coast Right, he had been thoroughly grilled by a Project “Saucer”
“They practically took me apart,” he said irritably. “They’ve got a lot of trick
questions. Some of ’em are figured out to trip up anybody faking a story.
The way they worked on me, you’d think I committed a murder.
“Then they tried to sell me on the idea I’d seen a balloon, or maybe a
plane, with the sun shining on it when it banked. I told them to go to the
devil–I knew what I saw. After seventeen years, I’ve got enough sense to
tell a ship or a balloon when I see it.”
“Did they believe you?” I asked him.
“If they did, they didn’t let on. Two of ’em acted as if they thought I was nuts.
The other guy-I think he was Air Force Intelligence–acted decent. He said
not to get steamed up about the Aero-Medical boys; it was their job to
screen out the crackpots.
“And on top of that, I found out later the F.B.I. had checked up on me to find
out if I was a liar or a screwball. They went around to my boss, people in
my neighborhood–even the pilots in my outfit. My outfit’s still razzing me. I
wouldn’t report another saucer if one flew through my cockpit.”
Pete Farrell hadn’t encountered any Project “Saucer” teams personally, but
he had some interesting angles.
Some of the information had come from commercial and private pilots in
the Midwest, part of it through National Guard contacts.
“I can tell you one thing,” Pete said. “Guard pilots got the same order as
the Air Force. If we saw anything peculiar flying around, we were to do our
damnedest to identify it.”
“What about trying to bring one down? I’ve heard that was in one order.”
Pete hesitated for a second. “Look, I told you that much because it’s been
in the papers. But I’m still in the Guard. I can’t tell you the order itself. It was
“Well, I’m not in the Guard,” said Art Green. He lit a cigarette, blew out the
match. “Why don’t you look into the Gorman case? Get thc dope on that
I’d heard of the Gorman case, but the court-martial thing was new to me.
Gorman, I recalled, was a fighter pilot in the North Dakota Air National
Guard. He had a mystifying encounter with a strange, fast-moving
“light” over Fargo Airport in the fall of 1948.
“That case is on my list,” I told Green. “But I don’t remember anything about
“It wasn’t in the papers. But all the pilots up that way know about it. In his
report, Gorman said something about trying to ram the thing. The idea got
around that Air Force orders had said to try this. Anyway, it got into the
papers and Gorman almost got court-martialed. If his family hadn’t had
some influence in the state, the Air Force probably would have pushed it.”
“Are you sure about this?” I said. “You know how those things build up.”
“Ask Gorman,” he said. “Or ask some of the pilots at Fargo.”
Before I left them, Green double-checked my report on his sighting, which
Hilton had forwarded. As in the majority of cases, he had seen just one
disk. It had hovered at a very high altitude, gleaming in the sun, then had
suddenly accelerated and raced off to the north.
“I couldn’t tell its size or speed,” said Green. “But if it was as high as I think,
it must have been pretty big.”
Pete told me later that Green believed the disk had been at least twenty
miles high, because it was well above clouds at thirty thousand feet.
“It’s kind of hard to believe,” said Pete. “The thing would have to be a lot
bigger than a B-twenty-nine, and the speed over two thousand miles an
“You know what they said about the Mantell saucer,” I reminded him.
“Some of the Godman Field people said it was at least three hundred feet
“I’ve heard it was twice that,” said Pete.
“You know any Kentucky National Guard pilots?” I asked.
“One or two,” said Pete. “But they couldn’t tell me anything. It was hushed
up too fast.”
That evening I talked with the airline official, whom I knew well enough to
call by his first name. I put it to him bluntly.
“Dick, if you’re under orders not to talk, just tell me. Fm trying to find out
whether Project ‘Saucer’ has muzzled airline pilots.”
“You mean the ones who’ve sighted things? Perhaps, in a few cases. But
most of the pilots know what happened to Captain Emil Smith, on United,
and those Eastern pilots. They keep still so they won’t be laughed at. Also
the airlines don’t like their pilots to talk for publication.”
“I’ve heard of several cases,” I said, “where Air Force Intelligence is
supposed to have warned pilots to keep mum. Two of the reports come
He made a gesture. “That could be. I’m not denying that airline pilots–and
that includes ours–see these things all the time. They’ve been sighted on
the Seattle-Alaska route, and between Anchorage and Japan. I know of
several saucers that pilots have seen between Honolulu and the mainland.
Check with Pan-American–you’ll find their pilots have seen them, too.”
“What happens to those reports?”
“They go to Operations,” said Dick. “Of course, if something really
important happens, the pilot may radio the tower before he lands. Then the
C.A.A. gets word to the Air Force, and they rush some Intelligence officers
to quiz the pilots. if it’s not too hot, they’d come from Wright Field–regular
Project ‘Saucer’ teams.
Otherwise, they’d send the nearest Intelligence officers to take over
I asked him if he had ever been in on one of thee sessions. Dick said he
“But a couple of pilots talked to me later. They said these Air Force men
seemed quite upset about it; they pounced on everything these boys said
about the thing’s appearance–how it maneuvered and so on.”
“What do your pilots think the saucers are?”
Dick gave me a slightly ironic grin. “Why ask me? Captain Blake says
you’ve been getting it firsthand.”
“I wasn’t pulling a fast one,” I protested. “We’re not going to quote actual
names or sources, unless people.
“Sure, I know that,” said Dick. “But you’ve got thc answer already. Some
pilots say interplanetary, some say guided missiles. A few–a very few–still
think it’s all nonsense, because they haven’t seen any.”
“What do you think?”
“I don’t know the answer,” said Dick, “but I’m positive of one thing. Either
the Air Force is sitting on a big secret, or they’re badly scared because
they don’t know the answer.”
During the next week or so, I covered several northwest and mountain
states. Although I was chiefly trying to find out about Project “Saucer,” I ran
onto two sightings that were not on my list.
One of these had occurred in California, at Fairfield Suisan Air Force
Base. A Seattle man who had been stationed there gave me the details. It
was on the night of December 1918, with unusually high winds sweeping
across the airfield. At times the gusts reached almost seventy miles an
hour. Suddenly a weird ball of light flashed into view, at a height of a
thousand feet. As the men on the base watched it, astonished, the
mysterious light abruptly shot skyward. In an incredibly short time, it
reached an altitude of twenty thousand feet and vanished.
“Was there any shape outlined behind the light?” I asked the Seattle man.
“Nobody saw any,” he replied. “It looked just like I said–a ball of light,
going like a streak.”
“Did it leave any smoke behind it?”
“You mean like an engine, or a jet?” He shook his head. “Not a thing. And
it didn’t make a sound–even when it shot up like that.”
“Did you hear any guesses about it, or reports later on?”
“Some major who didn’t see it said it must have been a balloon. Anybody
with brains could see that was screwy. No balloon ever went up that fast–
and besides, the thing was going against the wind.”
The second incident occurred at Salmon Dam, Idaho, on August 13, 1947.
When I heard the date, it sounded familiar. I checked my sightings file and
saw it was the same day as the strange affair at Twin Falls, Idaho.
In the Twin Falls case, the disk was sighted by observers in a canyon.
There was one interesting difference from the usual description. This disk
was sky-blue, or else its gleaming surface somehow reflected the sky
because of the angle of vision. Although it was not close to the treetops,
the observers were amazed to see the trees whip violently when the disk
raced overhead, as though the air was boiling from the object’s swift
At Salmon Dam, that same day, two miners heard an odd roaring sound
and stared into the sky. Several miles away, two brightly gleaming disks
were circling at high speed.
“It was like two round mirrors whirling around the sky,” one of the men was
later quoted as saying. “They couldn’t have been any ordinary planes; not
round like that. And they were going too fast.”
During this part of my trip, I also was told that one saucer had fallen into a
mountain lake. This came to me secondhand. The lone witness was said
to have rushed over to his car to get his camera as the disk approached.
When it plunged toward the lake, he was so startled that he failed to snap
the picture until the moment it struck. This story sounded so flimsy that I
didn’t bother to list it.
Months later, a Washington newsman confirmed at least part of the lake
story. When he first related it, I thought he had fallen for a gag.
“I heard that yarn,” I said. “Don’t tell me you believe it?”
“I come from Idaho,” he told me. “And I happen to know the fellow who took
the picture. Maybe it wasn’t a disk, but something fell into that lake.”
“Did you see the picture?”
“Yes, at the Pentagon.” At my surprised look, he added, “That was long
before they clamped down. I was talking to an Air Force officer about this
lake thing, and he showed me the picture.”
“What did it look like?”
“You couldn’t tell much about it-just a big splash and a blur where
something went under. Maybe a magnifying glass would bring it out, but I
didn’t get a chance to try it.”
It was early in 1950 when he told me this. I asked at the Pentagon if this
picture was in the Wright Field files, and if so whether I could see it. My
inquiries drew blank looks. No one remembered such a photograph. And
even if it were in the Project “Saucer” files, I couldn’t see it.
This was more than two months after Project “Saucer” had been officially
closed and its secrets presumably all revealed.
The rest of my interviews during this 1949 trip helped to round out my
picture of Project “Saucer”
Some witnesses seemed afraid to talk; a few flatly refused. I found no
proof of official pressure, but I frequently had the feeling that strong hints
had been dropped.
Though one or two witnesses showed resentment at investigators’
methods, most of them seemed more annoyed at the loss of time involved.
One man had been checked first by the police, then by the sheriff’s office;
an Air Force team had spent hours questioning him, returning the next day,
and finally the F.B.I. had made a character check. What he told me about
the Air Force interrogation confirmed one of Art Green’s statements.
“One Intelligence captain tried to tell me I’d seen a weather balloon. I called
up the airport and had them check on release schedules. They said next
day it didn’t fit any schedules around this area. Anyway, the wind wasn’t
right, because the thing I saw was cutting into the wind at a forty-fivedegree
Other witnesses told me that investigators had suggested birds, meteors,
reflections on clouds, shooting stars, and starshells as probable
explanations of what they had seen. I learned of one pilot who had been
startled by seeing a group of disks racing past his plane. Air Force
investigators later suggested that he had flown through a flock of birds, or
perhaps a cluster of balloons, On the flight back to Washington, I reread all
the information the Air Force had released on Project
“Saucer.” Suddenly a familiar phrase caught my eye. I read over the
“Preliminary study of the more than 240 domestic and thirty foreign
incidents by Astro-Physicist Hynek indicates that an over-all total of about
30% can probably be explained away as astronomical phenomena.”
I went through the report line by line. On page 17 I found this:
“Available preliminary reports now indicate that a great number of
sightings can be explained away as ordinary occurrences which have been
misrepresented as a result of human errors.”
On page 22 I ran onto another use of the phrase:
“The obvious explanation for most of the spherical-shaped objects
reported, as already mentioned, is that they are meteorological or similar
type balloons. This, however, does not explain reports that they travel at
high speed or maneuver rapidly. But ‘Saucer’ men point out that the
movement could be explained away as an optical illusion or actual
acceleration of the balloon caused by a gas leak and later exaggerated by
observers. . . . There are scores of possible explanations for the scores of
different type sightings reported.”
Explained away . . . It might not mean anything. It could be just an
unfortunate choice of words. But suppose that the real mission of Project
“Saucer” was to cover up something. Or that its purpose was to investigate
something serious, at the same time covering it up, step by step. The
Project “Saucer” teams, then, would check on reports and simultaneously
try to divert attention from the truth, suggesting various answers to explain
the sightings. Back at Wright Field, analysts and Intelligence officers would
go over the general picture and try to work up plausible explanations,
which, if necessary, could even be published.
“Explaining away” would be one of the main purposes of Project
personnel. These words would probably be used in discussions of ways
and means; they would undoubtedly would be used in secret official
And since this published preliminary report had been made up from
censored secret files, the use of those familiar words might have been
overlooked, since, read casually, they would appear harmless. If the report
had been thrown together hastily, the use of these telltale words could be
easily understood, and so could the report’s strange contradictions.
As an experiment, I fixed the idea firmly in mind that Project “Saucer” was
a cover-up unit. Then I went back once more and read the items quoted
above. The effect was almost startling.
It was as though I were reading confidential suggestions for diverting
attention and explaining away the sightings; suggestions made by Project
members and probably circulated for comment.
“Now, wait a minute,” I said to myself. “You may be dreaming up this whole
Trying to get back to a neutral viewpoint, I skimmed through the other
details of Project operations, as described in the report.
The order creating Project “Saucer” was signed on December 30, 1947.
(The actual code name was not
“Saucer,” but since for some reason the Air Force still has not published
the name, I have followed their usage of “Saucer” in its place.)
On January 22, 1948, two weeks after Captain Mantell’s death, the project
officially began operations.
(Preliminary investigation at Godman Field had been done by local
Intelligence officers.) Project “Saucer”
was set up under the Air Materiel Command at Wright Field.
Contracts were made with an astrophysicist (Professor Joseph Hynek),
also a prominent scientist (still unidentified), and a group of evaluation
experts (Rand Corporation). Arrangements were made for services by the
Air Weather Service, Andrews Field; the U. S. Weather Bureau; the
Electronics Laboratory, Cambridge Field Station; the A.M.C. Aero-
Medical Laboratory; the Army and Navy Departments; the F.B.I.; the
Department of Commerce, Civil Aeronautics Administration; and various
other government and private agencies. In addition, the services of rocket
experts, guided-missile authorities, space-travel planners, and others (in
the defense services or assigned to them) were made available as
desired. Under the heading
“How Incidents Are Investigated,” the Project “Saucer” report says: But the
hoaxes and crank letters in reality play a small part in Project “Saucer.”
Actually, it is a serious, scientific business of constant investigation,
analysis and evaluation which thus far has yielded evidence pointing to the
conclusion that much of the saucer scare is no scare at all, but can be
attributed to astronomical phenomena, to conventional aerial objects, to
hallucinations and to mass psychology.
But the mere existence of some yet unidentified flying objects necessitates
a constant vigilance on the part of Project “Saucer” personnel and the
civilian population. Investigation is greatly stepped up when observers
report incidents as soon as possible to the nearest military installation or to
Headquarters, A.M.C., direct.
A standard questionnaire is filled out under the guidance of interrogators.
In each case, time, location, size and shape of object, approximate
altitude, speed, maneuvers, color, length of time in sight, sound, etc., are
carefully noted. This information is sent in its entirety, together with any
fragments, soil photographs, drawings, etc., to Headquarters, A.M.C.
Here, highly trained evaluation teams take over. The information is broken
down and filed on summary sheets, plotted on maps and graphs and
integrated with the rest of the material, giving an easily comprehended
Duplicate copies on each incident arc sent to other investigating agencies,
including technical labs within the Air Materiel Command. These are
studied in relation to many factors such as guided missile research activity,
weather, and many others, atmospheric sounding balloon launchings,
commercial and military aircraft flights, flights of migratory birds and a
myriad of other considerations which might furnish explanations.
Generally, the flying objects are divided into four groups: Flying disks,
torpedo or cigar-shaped bodies with no wings or fins visible in flight,
spherical or balloon-shaped objects and balls of light. The first three
groups are capable of flight by aerodynamic or aerostatic means and can
be propelled and controlled by methods known to aeronautical engineers.
As for the lights, their actions–unless they were suspended from a higher
object or were the product of hallucination–remain unexplained.
Eventually, reports are sent back to Project “Saucer” headquarters, often
marking incidents closed. The project, however, is a young one-much of its
investigation is still under way.
Currently, a psychological analysis is being made by A.M.C.’s Aero-
Medical laboratory to determine what percentage of incidents are probably
based on errors of the human mind and senses. Available preliminary
reports now indicate that a great number can be explained away as
ordinary occurrences which have been misrepresented as a result of these
Near the end of the last page, a paragraph summed tip the report.
“The ‘Saucers’ are not a joke. Neither are they cause for alarm to the
population. Many of the incidents already have answers. Meteors.
Balloons. Falling stars. Birds in flight. Testing devices, etc. Some of them
still end in question marks.”
From what I had learned on this trip, I strongly doubted the answer
suggested. All but the “testing devices.”
What did they mean by that? It could be a hint at guided missiles; they had
already mentioned guided-missile research activity in another spot.
But if that was what lay behind this elaborate project, they would hardly be
hinting at it. If the answer was space travel, then such hints made sense,
They would be part of the cover-up plan. Everyone–including the Soviet
Union–knew we were working on guided missiles. It would do no harm to
use this as one of the
“myriad explanations” for the flying saucers.
I was still trying to figure it out when my plane let down for the landing at
Washington. I had hoped by this time to know the truth about Project
“Saucer.” Instead, it was a deeper mystery than ever.
True, I had found out how they operated–outside of Wright Field. Some of
the incidents had been enlightening. By now, I was certain that Project
“Saucer” was trying hard to explain away the sightings and hide the real
WHEN I reached home, I found a brief letter from Ken Purdy.
The Mantell and Eastern cases both look good. I don’t see how they can
brush them off. It looks more like the interplanetary answer to me, but we
won’t decide on treatment until we’re sure. [I had suggested two or three
angles, if this proved the real answer.]
Who would be the best authority to check our disk operation theory and
give us more details on directional control? I’d like to have it checked by
two more engineers.
Next day, I dug out my copy of Boal’s interview with D——, the famous
“Certainly the flying saucers are possible,” the designer had told Boal.
“Give me enough money and I’ll build you one. It might have to be a model
because the fuel would be a problem. If the saucers that have been seen
came from other worlds, which isn’t at all Buck Rogerish, they may be
powered with atomic energy or by the energy that produces cosmic rays–
which is many times more powerful–or by some other fuel or natural force
that our research hasn’t yet discovered. But the circular airfoil is quite
“It wouldn’t have the stability of the conventional airplane, but it would have
enormous maneuverability–it could rise vertically, hover, descend
vertically, and fly at extremely high speed, with the proper power. Don’t
take my word for it. Check with other engineers.”
Before looking up a private engineer I had in mind, I went to the National
Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. The N.A.C.A. is America’s most
authoritative source of aerodynamic knowledge. I knew they had already
tried out disk-shaped airfoils, and I asked about this first. I found that two
reports, Technical Note 539 and Report 431, discuss tests on circular and
elliptical Clark Y airfoils. Both reports state that these designs were found
Later, I talked with one of the top engineers in the N.A.C.A. Without
showing him D——‘s sketch, I asked how a disk might operate.
“It could be built with variable-direction jet or rocket nozzles,” be said. “The
nozzles would be placed around the rim, and by changing their direction
the disk could be made to rise and descend vertically. It could hover, fly
straight ahead, and make sharp turns.
“Its direction and velocity would be governed by the number of nozzles
operating, the power applied, and the angle at which they were tilted. They
could be pointed toward the ground, rearward, in a lateral direction, or in
“A disk flying level, straight ahead, could be turned swiftly to right or left by
shifting the angles of the nozzles or cutting off power from part of the group.
This method of control would operate in the earth’s atmosphere and also,
using rocket power, in free space, where conventional controls would be
The method he had described was not the one which D—— had outlined.
“What about a rotating disk?” I asked the N.A.C.A. man. “Suppose you
had one with a stationary center, and a large circular section rotating
around it? The rotating part would have a camber built into it, or it would
have slotted vanes.”
He gave me a curious look, “Where’d you get that idea about the
I told him it had come to me from True.
“It could be done,” he said. “The slotted-vanes method has already been
tried. There’s an engineer in Glendale, California, who’s built a model. His
name’s E. W. Kay.”
He gave me a few details on how a cambered or slotted-vane rotating disk
might operate, then interrupted himself to ask me what I thought the
“They’re either interplanetary or some secret development,” I said. ‘What
do you think?”
“The N.A.C.A. has no proof they even exist,” he answered.
When I left the building a few minutes later, I was still weighing that
statement. If the Air Force or the Navy had a secret disk device, the
N.A.C.A. would almost certainly know about it. The chances were that any
disk-shaped missile or new type of circular aircraft would first have been
tested in the N.A.C.A. wind tunnels at Langley Field. If the saucers were
interplanetary, the N.A.C.A.–at least top officials–would probably have
been in on any discussion of the disks’ performance. Either way, the
N.A.C.A.’s official attitude could be expected to match the Pentagon’s.
After lunch, I took a taxi to the office of the private engineer. Like D——, he
has asked that he not be quoted by name. The name I am using, Paul
Redell, will serve that purpose. Redell is a well-known aeronautical
engineer. He has worked with major aircraft companies and served as a
special consultant to government agencies and the industries. He is also a
Although I had known him several years, he refused at first to talk about the
saucers. Then I realized he thought I meant to quote him. I showed him
some of the material I had roughed out, in which names were omitted or
changed as requested.
“All right,” Redell said finally. “What do you want to know?”
“Anything you can tell us. But first, your ideas on these sketches.” I showed
him D——‘s drawings and then gave him the high points of the
investigation. When I mentioned the mystery-light incident at Fairfield
Suisan Air Force Base, Redell sat up quickly.
“The Gorman case again!”
“We heard about some other ‘light’ cases,” I said. “One was at Las
“I know about that one. That is, it you mean the green light–wait a minute!”
Redell frowned into space for a few seconds, “You say that Fairfield
Suisan sighting was on December third? Then the Las Vegas sighting was
only a few days later. It was the first week of the month, I’m positive.”
“Those light reports have got me stumped,” I said. “A light just can’t fly
around by itself. And those two-foot disks–”
“You haven’t worked on the Gorman case?” asked Redell.
I told him I hadn’t thought it was coming up on my schedule.
“Leave these sketches here,” he said. “Look into that Gorman sighting.
Then check on our plans for space exploration. I’ll give you some sources.
When you get through, come on back and we’ll talk it over.”
The Gorman “saucer dogfight” had been described in newspapers; the
pilot had reported chasing a swiftly maneuvering white light, which had
finally escaped him. Judging from the Project “Saucer” preliminary report,
this case had baffled all the Air Force investigators. When I met George
Gorman, I found him to be intelligent, coolheaded, and very firmly
convinced of every detail in his story. I had learned something about his
background. He had had college training. During the war, he had been an
Air Force instructor, training French student pilots. In Fargo, his home, he
had a good reputation, not only for veracity but as a businessman. Only
twenty-six, he was part owner of a construction company, and also the
Fargo representative for a hardware-store chain. Even knowing all this, I
found it hard at first to believe some of the dogfight details. But the ground
observers confirmed them.
It was about nine o’clock in the evening, October 1, 1948. Gorman, now an
Air National Guard lieutenant, had been on a practice flight in an F-51
fighter. The other pilots on this practice patrol had already landed.
Gorman had just been cleared by the C.A.A. operator in the Fargo Airport
tower when he saw a fast-moving light below his circling fighter.
From his altitude, 4,500 feet, it appeared to be the tail light of a swiftly
flying plane. As nearly as he could tell, it was 1,000 feet high, moving at
about 250 m.p.h.
Gorman called the tower to recheck his clearance. He was told the only
other plane in the area was a Piper Cub. Gorman Could see the Cub
plainly outlined below him. There was a night football game going on, and
the field was brightly lighted.
But the Cub was nowhere near the strange light.
As the mystery light raced above the football field. Gorman noticed an odd
phenomenon. Instead of seeing the silhouette of a plane, he saw no shape
at all around the light. By contrast, he could see the Cub’s outline clearly.
Meantime, the airport traffic controller, L. D. Jensen, had also spotted the
queer light. Concerned with the danger of collision–he said later that he,
too, thought it a plane’s tail light–he trained his binoculars on it.
Like Gorman, he was unable to distinguish a shape near the light. Neither
could another C.A.A. man who was with him in the tower, a Fargo resident
named Manuel E. Johnson.
Up in the F-51, Gorman dived on the light, which was steadily blinking on
“As I closed in,” he told Project “Saucer” men later, “it suddenly became
steady and pulled up into a sharp left turn. It was a clear white and
completely roundabout six to eight inches in diameter.
“I thought it was making a pass at the tower. I dived after it and brought my
manifold pressure up to sixty, but I couldn’t catch the thing.”
Gorman reported his speed at full power as 350 to 400 miles per hour.
During the maneuvers that followed, both the C.A.A. men watched from the
tower. Jensen was using powerful night glasses, but still no shape was
visible near the mysterious light. The fantastic dogfight continued for twenty
minutes. Gorman described it in detail.
“When I attempted to turn with the light, I blacked out temporarily, owing to
excessive speed. I am in fairly good physical condition, and I don’t believe
there are many, if any, pilots who could withstand the turn and speed
effected by the light and remain conscious.”
During these sharp maneuvers, the light climbed quickly, then made
another left bank.
“I put my fifty-one into a sharp turn and tried to cut it off,” said Gorman. “By
then we were at about seven thousand feet, Suddenly it made a sharp right
turn and we headed straight at each other. Just when we were about to
collide I guess I lost my nerve. I went into a dive and the light passed over
my canopy at about five hundred feet. Then it made a left circle about one
thousand feet above and I gave chase again.”
When collision seemed imminent a second time, the object shot straight
into the air. Gorman climbed after it at full throttle.
Just about this time, two. other witnesses, a private pilot and his
passenger, saw the fast-moving light. The pilot was Dr. A. D. Cannon, an
oculist; his passenger was Einar Nelson. Dr. Cannon later told
investigators the light was moving at high speed. He thought it might be a
Canadian jet fighter from over the border. (A careful check with Canadian
air officials ruled out this answer.) After landing at the airport, Dr. Cannon
and Mr. Nelson again watched the light, saw it change direction and
Meanwhile, Gorman was making desperate efforts to catch the thing. He
was now determined to ram it, since there seemed nothing solid behind it
to cause a dangerous crash. If his fighter was disabled, or if it caught fire,
he could bail out.
But despite the F-51’s fast climb, the light still outdistanced him. At 14,000
feet, Gorman’s plane went into a power stall, He made one last try,
climbing up to 17,000 feet. A few moments later, the light turned in a northnorthwest
direction and quickly disappeared.
Throughout the dogfight, Gorman noticed no deviation on his instruments,
according to the Project “Saucer”
report. Gorman did not confirm or deny this when I talked with him. But he
did agree with the rest of the Project statement. He did not notice any
sound, odor, or exhaust trail.
Gorman’s remarks about ramming the light reminded me of what Art Green
had said. When I asked Gorman about the court-martial rumor, he gave me
a searching glance.
“Where did you hear that?”
“Several places,” I told him. “At Chicago, in Salt Lake City–in fact, we’ve
been hearing it all over.”
“Well, there’s nothing to it,” Gorman declared. He changed the subject.
Some time afterward, a Fargo pilot told me there had been trouble over
the ramming story.
“But it wasn’t Gorman’s fault. Somebody else released that report to the A.
P. The news story didn’t actually say there was an Air Force order to ram it,
but the idea got around, and we heard that Washington squawked.
Gorman had a pretty rough time of it for a while. Some of the newspapers
razzed his story. And the Project ‘Saucer’ teams really worked on him. I
guess they were trying to scare him into saying he was mistaken, and it
was a balloon.”
When I asked Gorman about this, he denied he’d had rough treatment by
the Project teams.
“Sure, they asked about a thousand questions, and I could tell they thought
it might be a hoax at first. But that was before they quizzed the others who
“Anybody suggest it was a balloon?” I said casually.
“At first, they were sure that’s what it was,” answered Gorman. “You see,
there was a weather balloon released here. You know the kind, it has a
lighted candle on it. The Project teams said I’d chased after that candle
and just imagined the light’s maneuvers–confused it with my own
movement, because of the dark.”
Gorman grinned. “They had it just about wrapped up–until they talked to
George Sanderson. He’s the weather observer. He was tracking the
balloon with a theodolite, and he showed them his records. The time and
altitudes didn’t fit, and the wind direction was wrong. The balloon was
drifting in the opposite direction.
Both the tower men backed him up. So that killed the weather-balloon
The next step by Project “Saucer” investigators had been to look for some
unidentified aircraft. This failed, too. Obviously, it was only routine; the
outline of a conventional plane would certainly have been seen by Gorman
and the men in the tower.
An astronomical check by Professor Hynek ruled out stars, fireballs, and
comets–a vain hope, to begin with.
The only other conventional answer, as the Project report later stated, was
hallucination. In view of all the testimony, hallucination had to he ruled out.
Finally, the investigators admitted they had no solution.
The first Project “Saucer” report, on April 27, 1949, left the Gorman
“mystery light” unidentified.
In the Saturday Evening Post of May 7, 1949, Sidney Shallett analyzed the
Gorman case, in the second of his articles on flying saucers. Shallet
suggested this solution: that Gorman had chased one of the Navy’s giant
cosmic-ray research balloons. Each of these huge balloons is lighted, so
that night-flying planes will not collide with the gas bag or the instrument
case suspended below. Shallett concluded that Gorman was suffering from
a combination of vertigo and confusion with the light on the balloon.
As already mentioned, these huge Navy balloons are filled with only a small
amount of helium before their release at Minneapolis. They then rise swiftly
to very high altitudes, unless a leak develops. In Shallett’s words, “These
balloons travel high and fast. . . .”
Fargo is about two hundred miles from Minneapolis. Normally, a cosmicray
research balloon would have reached a very high altitude by the time it
had drifted this far. The only possible answer to its low-altitude sighting
would be a serious leak.
If a leaking balloon had come down to one thousand feet at Fargo, it would
either have remained at that height or kept on descending. The mystery
light was observed at this altitude moving at high speed. If a Cub’s outline
was visible against the lighted football field, the massive shape of even a
partly deflated balloon would have stood out like an elephant. Even before
release, the partially inflated gas bags are almost a hundred feet tall. The
crowd at the football game would certainly have seen such a monstrous
shape above the glare of the floodlights, for the plastic balloons gleam
brightly in any light rays. The two C.A.A. men, watching with binoculars,
could not possibly have missed it.
For the cosmic-balloon answer to be correct, this leaking gas bag would
have had to rise swiftly to seventeen thousand feet–after a loss of helium
had forced it down to one thousand. As a balloon pilot, I know this is
impossible. The Project “Saucer” report said unequivocally: “The object
could outturn and outspeed the F-51, and was able to attain a much
steeper climb and to maintain a constant rate of climb far in excess of the
Air Force fighter.”
A leaking balloon? More and more, I became convinced that Secretary
Forrestal had persuaded some editors that it was their patriotic duty to
conceal the answer, whatever it was.
That thought had begun to worry me, because of my part in this
investigation. Perhaps John Steele had been right, and we shouldn’t be
trying to dig out the answer. But I had already told Purdy, and he had
agreed, that if national security was involved, we would drop the thing
By the time I had proved the balloon answer wrong, I was badly puzzled.
The idea of a disembodied light was the hardest thing to swallow that I’d
come across so far.
And yet there were the other light reports–the strange sighting at Fairfield
Suisan Field, the weird green lights at Las Vegas and Albuquerque. And
there was the encounter that Lieutenant H. G. Combs had had one night
above Andrews Field, near Washington, D. C.
This incident had occurred on November 18, 1948, six weeks after
Gorman’s experience. Combs, flying with another lieutenant named
Jackson, was about to land his T-6, at 9:45 P.M., when a strange object
loomed up near him. It looked like a grayish globe, and it gave off an odd,
Combs chased the weird object for over ten minutes, during which it
appeared to evade every move he made. Once, its speed was nearly six
hundred miles an hour, as closely as he could estimate. In a final attempt to
identify it, Combs zoomed the T-6 up at a steep angle and flashed his
landing lights on it. Before he could get a good look, the globe light whirled
off to the east and vanished.
Since Combs’s story had been in the newspapers, Project “Saucer”
evidently had felt in wise to give some explanation. When I read it, in the
preliminary report, I was amazed. Here was the concluding sentence:
“The mystery was cleared up when the object was identified positively as a
cluster of cosmic-ray research balloons.”
Even one of the giant balloons would have been hard to take as the
explanation. Combs was almost sure to have collided with it in his head-on
passes. But an entire cluster! I tried to picture the T-6 zooming and twisting
through the night sky, with several huge balloons in its path. It would be a
miracle if Combs got through without hitting one of them, even if each
balloon was lighted. But he had seen only one light; so had Lieutenant
Jackson. That would mean all the rest of the balloons were unlighted–an
It was not until months afterward that I found Project “Saucer” had
withdrawn this “solution.” In its final report, this case, Number 207, was
listed in the “Unidentified” group. How the balloon-cluster explanation ever
got into the first report is still a mystery.
When I talked with Gorman, I told him I was baffled by the idea of a light
maneuvering through the skies with no airfoil to support it.
“I know,” he said. “It got me, too, at first.”
“You mean you know the answer?” I demanded.
“It’s just my personal opinion,” said Gorman. “But I’d rather not have it
printed. You see, I got some ideas from all the questions those Project
teams asked me. If my hunch turns out to be right, I might be talking about
an official secret.”
I tried to pry some hint out of him, but Gorman just smiled and shook his
“I can tell you this much,” he said, “because it’s been mentioned in print.
There was thought behind every move the light made. It wasn’t any radarresponder
gadget making it veer away from my ship.”
“How do you know that?”
“Because it reacted differently at different times. If it had been a
mechanical control, it would have turned or climbed the same way each
time I got near it. Instead, it was as if some intelligent mind was directing
every turn like a game of chess, and always one move ahead of me.
Maybe you can figure out the rest.”
That was all I could get out of him. It bothered me, because Combs’s report
indicated the same thing. I had a strong temptation to skip the space-plans
research and tell Redell what Gorman had told me. But Redell had an
orderly mind, and he didn’t like to be pushed.
Reluctantly, I gave up the idea. I had a feeling Redell knew the answer to
the mystery lights, and it wasn’t easy to put off the solution.
The letter that came from Art Green, while I was working on the space
plans, didn’t make it easier: Dear Keyhoe:
Just heard about your Seattle visit. That Fairfield Suisan thing is on the
level; several Air Force pilots have told me about it.
When you get to Fargo, ask Gorman what they found when they checked
his ship with a Geiger counter. If he says it was negative, then he must be
under orders. I happen to know better.
MY FIRST STEP, in checking on our space plans, was to look up official
announcements. I found that on December 29, 1948, Defense Secretary
James Forrestal had released this official statement:
“The Earth Satellite Vehicle Program, which is being carried out
independently by each military service, has been assigned to the
Committee on Guided Missiles for co-ordination.
“To provide an integrated program, the Committee has recommended that
current efforts be limited to studies and component design. Well-defined
areas of such research have been allocated to each of the three military
Appropriation bills had already provided funds for space exploration plans.
The Air Force research was indicated by General Curtis E. LeMay, who
was then Deputy Chief of Air Staff for Research and Development. In
outlining plans for an Air Engineering Design Center at Wright Field,
General LeMay included these space-exploration requisites:
“Flight and survival equipment for ultra-atmospheric operations, including
space vehicles, space bases, and devices for use therein.”
The idea of exploring space is, of course, nothing new. For many years,
writers of imaginative fiction have described trips to the moon and distant
planets. More recently, comic books and strips have gone in heavily for
As a natural result of this, the first serious rocket experiments in this
country were labeled screwball stunts, about on a par with efforts to break
through the sonic barrier. The latter had been “proved” impossible by
aeronautical engineers; as for rocket flight, it was too silly for serious
consideration. Pendray, Goddard, and other rocket pioneers took some
vicious ridicule before America woke up to the possibilities.
Meantime, German scientists had gone far ahead.
Their buzz bomb, a low-altitude semi-guided missile, was just the
beginning. Even the devastating V-2, which soared high into the
stratosphere before falling on England, was just a step in their tremendous
space program. If the Nazis could have hung on a year or two more, the
war might have had a grimly different ending.
When the Allies seized Nazi secrets, some of the German plans were
revealed. Among them was one for a huge earth satellite. From this base,
which would circle the earth some five hundred miles away, enormous
mirrors would focus the sun’s rays on any desired spot. The result: swift,
fiery destruction of any city or base refusing to surrender.
First publication of this scheme brought the usual jeers. Many people,
including some reputable scientists, believed it had been just a
propaganda plan that even Goebbels had discarded as hopeless.
Then the Pentagon announced the U.S. Earth Satellite Vehicle Program,
along with plans for a moon rocket, The artificial satellite is to be a large
rocket-propelled projectile. In its upward flight, it will have to reach a speed
of 23,000 miles an hour, to escape the earth’s pull of gravity. At a height of
about 500 miles, special controls will turn the projectile and cause it to
circle the earth. These controls will be either automatic or operated from
the ground, by radar. Theoretically, once such a vehicle is beyond gravity’s
magnetism, it can coast along in the sky forever. Its rocket power will be
shut off; the only need for such power would be if the satellite veered off
course. A momentary burst from the jets would be sufficient to bring it back
to its orbit.
Circling the earth in about two hours, this first satellite is expected to be
used as a testing station.
Instruments will record and transmit vital information to the earth–the effect
of cosmic rays, solar radiation, fuel required for course corrections, and
many other items.
A second space base farther out will probably be the next step. It may be
manned, or it may be under remote control like the first. Perhaps the first
satellite vehicle will be followed by a compartmented operating base, a
sort of aerial aircraft carrier, with other rocket ships operating to and fro on
the earth shuttle. The moon rocket is expected to add to our information
about space, so that finally we will emerge with an interplanetary space
The first attempts may fail. The first satellite may fall back and have to be
guided to an ocean landing. Or its controls might not bring it into the
planned orbit. In this case, it could coast on out into space and be lost. But
sooner or later, effective controls will be found. Then the manned space
ships will follow.
Once in free space, there will be no gravitational pull to offset. The space
ship and everything in it will be weightless. Shielding is expected to
prevent danger from cosmic rays and solar radiation.
The danger from meteorites has been partly discounted in one scientific
study. (“Probability that a meteorite will hit or penetrate a body situated in
the vicinity of the earth,” by G. Grimminger, Journal of Applied Physics,
Vol. 19, No. 10, pp. 947-956, October 1948) In this study, it is stated that a
meteorite is unlikely to penetrate the thick shell our space vehicles will
undoubtedly have. However, this applies only to the earth’s atmosphere.
Longer studies, using remote-controlled vehicles in space, may take years
before it will be safe to launch a manned space ship. Radar or other
devices may have to be developed to detect approaching meteorites at a
distance and automatically change a space ship’s course. The change
required would be infinitesimal, using power for only a fraction of a second.
But before we are ready for interplanetary travel, we will have to harness
atomic power or some other force not now available, such as cosmic rays.
Navigation at such tremendous speeds is another great problem, on which
special groups are now at work. A Navy scientific project recently found
that strange radio signals are constantly being sent out from a “hot spot” in
the Milky Way; other nebulae or “hot” stars may be similarly identified by
some peculiarity in their radio emanations. If so, these could be used as
check points in long-range space travel.
Escape from the earth’s gravity is possible even now, according to Francis
H. Clauser, an authority on space travel plans. But the cost would be
prohibitive, with our present rocket motors, and practical operations must
wait for higher velocity rocket power, atomic or otherwise. (“Flight beyond
the Earth’s Atmosphere,
“S.A.E. Quarterly Transactions, Vol. 2, No, 4, October 1948.) Already, a
two-stage rocket has gone more than 250 miles above the earth. This is
the V-2-Wac Corporal combination. The V-2 rocket is used to power the
first part of the flight, dropping off when its fuel is exhausted. The Wac
Corporal then proceeds on its own fuel, reaching a fantastic speed in the
thin air higher up.
Hundreds of technical problems must be licked before the first satellite
vehicle can be launched successfully.
Records on our V-2 rockets indicate some of the obstacles. On the takeoff,
their present swift acceleration would undoubtedly kill anyone inside.
When re-entering the earth’s atmosphere the nose of a V-2 gets red-hot.
Both the acceleration and deceleration must be controlled before the first
volunteers will be allowed to hazard their lives in manned rockets. Willi Ley,
noted authority on space-travel problems, believes that pilots may have to
accept temporary blackout as a necessity on the take-off. (Two of his
books, Rockets and Space Travel and Outer Space, give fascinating and
well-thought-out pictures of what we may expect in years to come.)
Some authorities believe that our space travel will be confined to our own
solar system for a long time, perhaps forever. The trip to the moon, though
now a tremendous project, would be relatively simple compared with a
journey outside our system. Escape from the moon, for the return trip,
would be easier than leaving the earth; because of its smaller mass, to
escape the moon’s gravitational pull would take a speed of about 5,000
miles an hour, against 23,000 for the earth. Navigation would be much
simpler. Our globe would loom up in the heavens, much larger and brighter
than the moon appears to us. Radar beams would also be a guide.
The greatest obstacle to reaching far-distant planet is the time required. In
the Project “Saucer” study of space travel, Wolf 359 was named as the
nearest star likely to have possibly inhabited areas. Wolf 359 is eight lightyears
from the earth. The limiting speed in space, according to Einstein’s
law, would be just under the speed of light–186,000 miles per second. At
this speed, Einstein states, matter is converted into energy. It is a
ridiculous assumption, but even if atomic power, or some force such as
cosmic rays, made an approach to that speed possible, it would still take
eight years to reach Wolf 359. The round trip would take sixteen.
There have been a few scientists who dispute Einstein’s law, though no
one has disproved it. If the speed of light is not an absolute limit for space
ships, then travel to remote parts of the universe may someday be
Otherwise, a trip outside our solar system could be a lifetime expedition.
Most space travel would probably be limited to the planets of our sun–the
moon, Mars, Venus, Jupiter, and the others.
Although it may be many years before the first manned space ship leaves
the earth, we are already at work on the problems the crews would face. I
learned some of the details from a Navy flight surgeon with whom I had
talked about take-off problems.
“They’re a lot further than that” he told me. “Down at Randolph Field, the
Aero-Medical research lab has run into some mighty queer things. Ever
hear of ‘dead distance’?”
“No, that’s a new one.”
“Well, it sounds crazy, but they’ve figured out that a space ship would be
going faster than anyone could think.”
“But you think instantaneously,” I objected.
“Oh, no. It takes a fraction of a second, even for the fastest thinker. Let’s
say the ship was making a hundred miles a second–and that’s slow
compared with what they expect eventually. Everything would happen
faster than your nerve impulses could register it. Your comprehension
would always be lagging a split second behind the space ship’s
“I don’t see why that’s so serious,” I said.
“Suppose radar or some other device warned you a meteorite was coming
toward you head-on. Or maybe some instrument indicated an error in
navigation. By the time your mind registered the thought, the situation
would have changed.”
“Then all the controls would have to be automatic,” I said. I told him that I
had heard about plans for avoiding meteorites. “Electronic controls would
be faster than thought.”
“That’s probably the answer,” he agreed. “Of course, at a hundred miles a
second it might not be too serious. But if they ever get up to speeds like a
thousand miles a second, that mental lag could make an enormous
difference, whether it was a meteorite heading toward you or a matter of
One of the problems he mentioned was the lack of gravity. I had already
learned about this. Once away from the earth’s pull, objects in the space
ship would have no weight. The slightest push could send crewmen floating
around the sealed compartment.
“Suppose you spilled a cup of coffee,” said the flight surgeon. “What would
I said I hadn’t thought it out.
“The Randolph Field lab can tell you,” he said. “The coffee would stay right
there in the air. So would the cup, if you let go of it. But there’s a more
serious angle–your breath.”
“You’d have artificial air,” I began.
“Yes, they’ve already worked that out. But what about the breath you
exhale? It contains carbon dioxide, and if you let it stay right there in front of
your face you’d be sucking it back into your lungs. After a while, it would
asphyxiate you. So the air has to be kept in motion, and besides that the
ventilating system has to remove the carbon dioxide.”
“What about eating?” I asked. “Swallowing is partly gravity, isn’t it?”
He nodded. “Same as drinking, though the throat muscles help force the
food down. I don’t know the answer to that. In fact, everything about the
human body presents a problem. Take the blood circulation.
The amount of energy required to pump blood through the veins would be
almost negligible. What would that do to your heart?”
“I couldn’t even guess,” I said.
“Well, that’s all the Aero-Medical lab can do–guess at it. They’ve been
trying to work out some way of duplicating the effect of zero gravity, but
there’s just no answer. If you could build a machine to neutralize gravity, you
could get all the answers, except to the ‘dead distance’ question.
“For instance, there’s the matter of whether the human body would even
function without gravity. All down through the stages of evolution, man’s
organs have been used to that downward pull. Take away gravity, and your
whole body might stop working. Some of the Aero-Medical men I’ve talked
with don’t believe that, but they admit that long trips outside of gravity might
have odd effects.
“Then there’s the question of orientation. Here on earth, orienting yourself
depends on the feeling you get from the pull of gravity, plus your vision. just
being blindfolded is enough to disorient some people. Taking away the pull
of gravity might be a lot worse. And of course out in space your only
reference points would be distant stars and planets. We’ve been used to
locating stars from points on the earth, where we know their position. But
how about locating them from out in space, with a ship moving at great
speed? Inside the space ship, it would be something like being in a
submarine. Probably only the pilot compartment would have glass ports,
and those would be covered except in landing–maybe even then. Outside
vision might be by television, so you couldn’t break a glass port and let out
“But to go back to the submarine idea. It would be like a sub, with this big
difference: In the submarine you can generally tell which way is down,
except maybe in a crash dive when you may lose your equilibrium for a
moment. But in the space ship, you could be standing with your feet on one
spot, and another crewman might be–relative to you–standing upside
down. You might be floating horizontally, the other man vertically. [p. 105]
The more you think about it, the crazier it gets. But they’ve got to solve all
those problems before we can tackle space.”
To make sure I had the details right, I checked on the Air Force research. I
found that the Randolph Field laboratory is working on all these problems,
and many more.
Although plans arc not far enough advanced to make it certain, probably
animals will be sent up in research rockets to determine the effect of no
gravity before any human beings make such flights. The results could be
televised back to the earth.
All through my check-up on space exploration plans, one thing struck me: I
met no resistance. There was no official reticence about the program; on
the contrary, nothing about it seemed secret.
Even though it was peacetime, this was a little curious, because of the
potential war value of an earth satellite vehicle. Even if the Nazi scheme for
destruction proved just a dream, an orbiting space base could be used for
other purposes. In its two-hour swing around the earth, practically all of the
globe could be observed-directly, by powerful telescopes, or indirectly, by
a combination of radar and television. Long-range missiles could be
guided to targets, after being launched from some point on the earth. As
the missiles climbed high into the stratosphere, the satellite’s radar could
pick them up and keep them on course by remote control.
There were other possibilities for both attack and defense. Ordinarily,
projects with wartime value are kept under wraps, or at least not widely
publicized. Of course, the explanation might be very simple: The
completion of the satellite vehicle was so remote that there seemed no
need for secrecy. But in that case, why had the program been announced
If the purpose had been propaganda, it looked like a weak gesture. The
Soviets would not be greatly worried by a dream weapon forty or fifty years
off. Besides that, the Pentagon, as a rule, doesn’t go for such propaganda.
There was only one conventional answer that made any sense. If we had
heard that the Soviets were about to announce such a program, as a
propaganda trick, it would be smart to beat them to it. But I had no proof of,
any such Russian intention.
The date on Secretary Forrestal’s co-ordination announcement was
December 30, 1948. One day later, the order creating Project “Saucer”
had been signed. That didn’t prove anything; winding up the year, Forrestal
could have signed a hundred orders. I was getting too suspicious.
At any rate, I had now analyzed the Gorman case and checked on our
space plans. Tomorrow I would see Redell and find out what he knew.
‘WHEN I called Redell’s office I found he had flown to Dallas and would not
be back for two days. By the time he returned, I had written a draft of the
Gorman case, with my answer to the balloon explanation.
When I saw him, the next morning, I asked him to look it over.
Redell lighted his pipe and then read the draft, nodding to himself now and
“I think that’s correct analysis,” he said when he finished. “That was a very
curious case. You know, Project
‘Saucer’ even had psychiatrists out there. If Gorman had been the only
witness, I think they’d have called it a hallucination. As it was, they took a
crack at him and the C.A.A. men in their preliminary report.”
Though I recalled that there had been a comment, I didn’t remember the
wording. Redell looked it up and read it aloud:
“‘From a psychological aspect, the Gorman incident raised the question,
“Is it possible for an object without appreciable shape or known
aeronautical configuration to appear to travel at variable speeds and
“Hallucination might sound like a logical answer,” I said, “until you check all
the testimony. But there are just too many witnesses who confirm Gorman’s
report. Also, he seems like a pretty level-headed chap.”
Redell filled his pipe again. “But you still can’t quite accept it?”
“I’m positive they saw the light–but what the devil was it? How could it fly
without some kind of airfoil?”
“Maybe it didn’t. You remember Gorman described an odd fuzziness
around the edge of the light? It’s in this Air Force report. That could have
been a reflection from the airfoil.”
“Yes, but Gorman would have seen any solid–” I stopped, as Redell made
a negative gesture.
“It could be solid and still not show up,” he said.
“You mean it was transparent? Sure, that would do it!”
“Let’s say the airfoil was a rotating plastic disk, absolutely transparent. The
blurred, fuzzy look could have been caused by the whirling disk. Neither
Gorman nor the C.A.A. men in the tower could possibly see the disk itself.”
“Paul, I think you’ve hit it,” I said. “I can see thc rest of it–the thing was
under remote control, radio or radar. And from the way it flew rings around
Gorman, whoever controlled it must have been able to see the F-51, either
with a television ‘eye’ or by radar,”
“Or by some means we don’t understand,” said Redell. He went on
carefully, “In all these saucer cases, keep this in mind: We may be dealing
with some totally unknown principle–something completely beyond our
For a moment, I thought he was hunting at some radical discovery by
Soviet–captured Nazi scientists. Then I realized what he meant.
“You think they’re interplanetary,” I murmured.
“Why not?” Redell looked surprised. “Isn’t that your idea? I got that
“Yes, but I didn’t think you believed it. When you said to check on our
space plans, I thought you had some secret missile in mind.”
“No, I had another reason. I wanted you to see all the problems involved in
space travel. If you accept the interplanetary answer, you have to accept
this, too–whoever is looking us over has licked all those problems years
ago. Technically, they’d be hundreds of years ahead of us–maybe
thousands. It has a lot to do with what they’d be up to here.”
When I mentioned the old sighting reports, I found that Redell already knew
about them. He was convinced that the earth had been under observation
a long time, probably even before the first recorded sightings.
“I know some of those reports aren’t authentic,” he admitted. “But if you
accept even one report of a flying disk or rocket-shaped object before the
twentieth century, then you have to accept the basic idea. In the last forty
years, you might blame the reports on planes and dirigibles. But there was
no propelled aircraft until 1903. [p. 109] Either all those early sightings
were wrong, or some kind of fast aerial machine has been flying
periodically over the earth for at least two centuries.
I told him I was pretty well convinced, but that True faced a problem. There
was some conflicting evidence, and part of it seemed linked with guided
missiles. I felt sure we could prove the space-travel answer, but we had to
stay clear of discussing any weapons that were still a secret.
“I can’t believe that guided missiles are the answer to the Godman Field
saucer and the Chiles-Whitted case, or this business at Fargo. But we’re
got to be absolutely sure before we print anything.”
“Well, let’s analyze it,” said Redell. “Let’s see if all the saucers could be
explained as something launched from the earth.”
He reached for a pad and a pencil.
“First, let’s take your rotating disk. That would be a lot simpler to build than
the stationary disk with variable jet nozzles. With a disk rotated at high
speed you get a tremendous lift, whether it’s slotted or cambered, as long
as there’s enough air to work on.”
“The helicopter principle,” I said.
Redell nodded. “The most practical propulsion would be with two or more
jets out on the rim, to spin your rotating section. But to get up enough
speed for the jets to be efficient, you’d have to whirl the disk mechanically
before the take-off. Here’s one way. You could have a square hole in the
center; then the disk launching device would have a square shaft, rotated
by an engine or a motor. As the speed built up, the cambered disk would
ride up the shaft and free itself, rising vertically, with the jets taking over the
job of whirling the cambered section.
“The lift would be terrific, far more than any normal aircraft. I don’t believe
any human being could take the G’s involved in a maximum power climb;
they’d have to use remote control. When it got to the desired altitude, your
disk could be flown in any direction by tilting it that way. The forward
component from that tremendous lift would result in a very high speed. The
disk could also hover, and descend vertically.”
“What about maneuvering?” I asked, thinking of Gorman’s experience.
“It could turn faster than any pilot could stand,” said Redell. “Of course, a
pilot’s cockpit could be built into a large disk; but there’d have to be some
way of holding down the speed, to avoid too many G’s in tight maneuvers.”
“Most of the disks don’t make any noise,” I said. “At least, that’s the
general report. You’d hear ordinary jets for miles.”
“Right, and here’s another angle. Ram jets take a lot of fuel. Even with
some highly efficient new jet, I can’t see the long ranges reported. Some of
these saucers have been seen all over the world. No matter which
hemisphere they were launched from, they’d need an eight-thousand-mile
range, at least, to explain all of the sightings. The only apparent answer
would be some new kind of power, probably atomic. We certainly didn’t
have atomic engines for aircraft in 1947, when the first disks were seen
here. And we don’t have them now, though we’re working on it. Even if we
had such an engine, it wouldn’t be tiny enough to power the small disks.”
“Anyway,” I said, “we’d hardly be flying them all over everywhere. The cost
would be enormous, and there’d always be a danger of somebody getting
the secret if a disk landed.”
“Plus the risk of injuring people by radiation. just imagine an atomicpowered
disk dropping into a city. The whole idea’s ridiculous.”
“That seems to rule out the guided-missile answer,” I began. But Redell
shook his head.
“Disk-shaped missiles are quite feasible. I’m talking about range, speed,
and performance. Imagine for a moment that we have disk-type missiles
using the latest jet or rocket propulsion–either piloted or remote-controlled.
The question is, could such disks fit specific sightings like the one at
Godman Field and the case at Fargo?”
Redell paused as if some new thought had struck him.
“Wait a minute, here’s an even better test. I happen to know about this
case personally. Marvin Miles–he’s an aviation writer in Los Angeles–was
down at White Sands Proving Ground some time ago. He talked with a
Navy rocket expert who was in charge of naval guided-missile projects.
This Navy man–he’s a commander in the regular service–told Miles they’d
seen four saucers down in that area.”
“You’re sure he wasn’t kidding Miles?” I said. Then I remembered Purdy’s
tip about a White Sands case.
“I told you I checked on this myself,” Redell said, a little annoyed. “After
Miles told me about it, I asked an engineer who’d been down there if it was
true. He gave me the same story, figures and all. The first saucer was
tracked by White Sands observers with a theodolite. Then they worked out
its performance with ballistics formulas.”
Redell looked at me grimly.
“The thing was about fifty miles up. And it was making over fifteen
thousand miles an hour!”
One of the witnesses, said Redell, was a well-known scientist from the
General Mills aeronautical research laboratory in Minneapolis, which was
working with the Navy. (A few days later, I verified this fact and the basic
details of Redell’s account. But it was not until early in January 1950 that I
finally identified the officer as Commander Robert B. McLaughlin and got
his dramatic story.)
“Here are two more items Miles told me,” Redell went on. “This Navy
expert said the saucer actually looked elliptical, or egg-shaped. And while
it was being tracked it suddenly made a steep climb–so steep no human
being could have lived through it.”
“One thing is certain,” I said. “That fifty-mile altitude knocks out the rotating
disk. Up in that thin air it wouldn’t have any lift.”
“Right,” said Redell. “And the variable jet type would require an enormous
amount of fuel. Regardless, those G’s mean it couldn’t have had any pilot
born on this earth.”
According to Marvin Miles, this White Sands saucer had been over a
hundred feet long. (Later, Commander McLaughlin stated that it was 105
feet.) If this were an American device, then it meant that we had already
licked many of the problems on which the Earth Satellite Vehicle designers
were supposed to be just starting. Their statements, then, would have to be
false–part of an elaborate cover-up.
“If we had such an advanced design,” said Redell, “and I just don’t believe
it possible–would we gamble on a remote-control system? No such
system is perfect. Suppose it went wrong. At that speed, over fifteen
thousand miles an hour, your precious missile or strato ship could be
halfway around the globe in about forty-five minutes. That is, if the fuel held
out. Before you could regain control, you might lose it in the sea.
Or it might come down behind the Iron Curtain. Even if it were I smashed to
bits, it would tip off the Soviets. They might claim it was a guided-missile
attack. Almost anything could hap pen.”
“It could have a time bomb in it,” I suggested. “if it got off course or out of
control, it would blow itself up.”
Redell emphatically shook his head. “I’ve heard that idea before, but it
won’t hold up. What if your ship’s controls went haywire and the thing blew
up over a crowded city? Imagine the panic, even if no actual damage was
done. No, sir–nobody in his right mind is going to let a huge ship like that
go barging around unpiloted. It would be criminal negligence.
“If the White Sands calculations were correct, then this particular saucer
was no earth-made device.
Perhaps in coming years, we could produce such a ship, with atomic
power to drive it. But not now.”
Redell went over several other cases.
“Take the Godman Field saucer. At one time, it was seen at places one
hundred and seventy-five miles apart, as you know. Even to have been
seen at all from both places, it would. have to have been huge–
much larger than two hundred and fifty feet in diameter. The human eye
wouldn’t resolve an object that size, at such a distance and height.”
It was an odd thing; I had, gone over the Mantell case a dozen times. I
knew the object was huge. But I had never tried to figure out the object’s
“How big do you think it was?” I asked quickly. This could be the key I had
tried to find.
“I haven’t worked it out,” said Redell. “But I can give you a rough idea. The
human eye can’t resolve any object that subtends less than three minutes
of arc. For instance, a plane with a hundred-foot wing span would only be a
speck twenty miles away, if you saw it at all.”
“But this thing was seen clearly eighty-seven miles away–or even more, if it
wasn’t midway between the two cities. Why, it would have to be a thousand
feet in diameter.”
“Even larger.” Redell was silent a moment. “What was the word Mantell
used–‘tremendous’?” I tried to visualize the thing, but my mind balked. One
thing was certain now. It was utterly impossible that any nation on earth
could have built such an enormous airborne machine. just to think of the
force required to hold it in the sky was enough to stagger any engineer. We
were years away–perhaps centuries–from any such possibility.
As if he had read my thoughts, Redell said soberly, “There’s no other
possible answer. It was a huge space ship–perhaps the largest ever to
come into our atmosphere.”
It was clear now why such desperate efforts had been made to explain
away the object Mantell had chased.
“What about that Eastern Airlines sighting?” I asked.
“Well, first,” said Redell, “it wasn’t any remote-control guided missile. I’ll
say it again; it would be sheer insanity. Suppose that thing had crashed in
Macon. At that speed it could have plowed its way for blocks, right through
the buildings. It could have killed hundreds of people, burned the heart out
of the city.
“If it was a missile, or some hush-hush experimental job, then it was
piloted. But they don’t test a job like that on any commercial airways. And
they don’t fool around at five thousand feet where people will see the thing
streaking by and call the newspapers.
“To power a hundred-foot wingless ship, especially at those speeds, would
take enormous force. Not as much as a V-two rocket, but tremendous
power. The fuel load would be terrific. Certainly, the pilot wouldn’t be
circling around Georgia and Alabama for an hour, buzzing airliners. I’ll
stake everything that we couldn’t duplicate that space ship’s performance
for less than fifty million dollars. It would take something brand-new in jets.”
Redell paused. He looked at me grimly. “And the way I’d have to soup it up,
it would be a damned dangerous ship to fly. No pilot would deliberately fly it
that low. He’d stay up where he’d have a chance to bail out.”
I told him what I had heard about the blueprints the Air Force was said to
“Of course they were worried,” said Redell. “And probably they still are. But
I don’t think they need be; so far, there’s been nothing menacing about
these space ships.”
When I got him back to the Gorman case, Redell drew a sketch on his pad,
showing me his idea of the disk light. He estimated the transparent rim as
not more than five feet in diameter.
“Possibly smaller,” he said. “You recall that Gorman said the light was
between six and eight inches in diameter. He also said it seemed to have
depth–that was in the Air Force report.”
“You think all the mechanism was hidden by the light?”
“Only possible answer,” said Redell. “But just try to imagine crowding a
motor, or jet controls for rim jets, along with remote controls and a
television device, in that small space. Plus your fuel supply. I don’t know
any engineer who would even attempt it. To carry that much gear, it would
take a fair-sized plane. You could make a disk large enough, but the
mechanism and fuel section would be two or three feet across, at least. So
Gorman’s light must have been powered and controlled by some unique
means. The same principle applies to all the other light reports I’ve heard.
No shape behind them, high speed, and intelligent maneuvers. That thing
was guided from some interplanetary ship, hovering at a high altitude,”
Redell declared. “But I haven’t any idea what source of power it used.”
Until then, I had forgotten about Art Green’s letter. I told Redell what Art had
said about the Geiger counter.
“I knew they went over Gorman’s fighter with a Geiger counter,” Redell
commented. “But they said the reaction was negative. If Green is right, it’s
interesting. It would mean they have built incredibly small atomic engines.
But with a race so many years ahead of us, it shouldn’t be surprising. Of
course, they may also be using some other kind of power our scientists
say is impossible.”
I was about to ask him what he meant when his secretary came in.
“Mr. Carson is waiting,” she told Redell. “He had a four-o’clock
As I started to leave, Redell looked at his calendar.
“I hate to break this up; it’s a fascinating business What about coming in
Friday? I’d like to see the rest of those case reports.”
“Fine,” I said. “I’ve got a few more questions, too.”
Going out, I made a mental note of the Friday date. Then the figure clicked;
it was just three months since I’d started on this assignment.
Three months ago. At that time I’d only been half sure that the saucers were
real. If anyone had said I’d soon believe they were space ships, I’d have
told him he was crazy.
BEFORE my date with Redell, I went over all the material I had, hoping to
find some clue to the space visitors’ planet. It was possible, of course, that
there was more than one planet involved.
Project “Saucer” had discussed the possibilities in it! report of April 27,
1949. I read over this section again: Since flying saucers first hit the
headlines almost two years ago, there has been wide speculation that the
aerial phenomena might actually be some form of penetration from another
Actually, astronomers are largely in agreement that only one member of the
solar system beside Earth is capable of supporting life. That is Mars. Even
Mars, however, appears to be relatively desolate and inhospitable, so that
a Martian race would be more occupied with survival than we are on Earth.
On Mars, there exists an excessively slow loss of atmosphere, oxygen and
water, against which intelligent beings, if they do exist there, may have
protected themselves by scientific control of physical conditions.
This might have been done, scientists speculate, by the construction of
homes and cities underground where the atmospheric pressure would be
greater and thus temperature extremes reduced. The other possibilities
exist, of course, that evolution may have developed a being who can
withstand the rigors of the Martian climate, or that the race–if it ever did
In other words, the existence of intelligent life on Mars, where the rare
atmosphere is nearly devoid of oxygen and water and where the nights are
much colder than our Arctic winters, is not impossible but is completely
The possibility of intelligent life also existing on the planet Venus is not
considered completely unreasonable by astronomers. The atmosphere of
Venus apparently consists mostly of carbon dioxide with deep clouds of
formaldehyde droplets, and there seems to be little or no water. Yet,
scientists concede that living organisms might develop in chemical
environments which are strange to us. Venus, however, has two
handicaps. Her mass and gravity are nearly as large as the Earth (Mars is
smaller) and her cloudy atmosphere would discourage astronomy, hence
The last argument, I thought, did not have too much weight. We were
planning to escape the earth’s gravity; Martians could do the same, with
their planet. As for the cloudy atmosphere, they could have developed
some system of radio or radar investigation of the universe. The Navy
research units, I knew, were probing the far-off Crab nebula in the Milky
Way with special radio devices. This same method, or something far
superior, could have been developed on Venus, or other planets
surrounded by constant clouds.
After the discussion of solar-system planets, the Project “Saucer” report
went on to other star systems: Outside the solar system other stars–22 in
number–have satellite planets. Our sun has nine. One of these, the Earth,
is ideal for existence of intelligent life. On two others there is a possibility of
Therefore, astronomers believe reasonable the thesis that there could be
at least one ideally habitable planet for each of the 22 other eligible stars.
(After publication of our findings in True, several astronomers said that
many planets may be inhabited. One of these was Dr. Carl F. von
Weizacker, noted University of Chicago physicist. On January 10, 1950,
Dr. von Weizacker stated: “Billions upon billions of stars found in the
heavens may each have their own planets revolving about them. It is
possible that these planets would have plant and animal life on them
similar to the earth’s.”)
After narrowing the eligible stars down to twenty-two the Project “Saucer”
report goes on: The theory is also employed that man represents the
average in advancement and development. Therefore, one-half the other
habitable planets would be behind man in development, and the other half
ahead. It is also assumed that any visiting race could be expected to be far
in advance of man. Thus, the chance of space travelers existing at planets
attached to neighboring stars is very much greater than the chance of
space-traveling Martians. The one can be viewed as almost a certainty (if
you accept the thesis that the number of inhabited planets is equal to those
that are suitable for life and that intelligent life is not peculiar to the Earth) .”
The most likely star was Wolf 359–eight light-years away. I thought for a
minute about traveling that vast distance. It was almost appalling,
considered in terms of man’s life span. Of course, dwellers on other
planets might live much longer.
If the speed of light was not an absolute limit, almost any space journey
would then be possible. Since there would be no resistance in outer
space, it would be simply a matter of using rocket power in the first stages
to accelerate to the maximum speed desired. In the latter phase, the
rocket’s drive would have to be reversed, to decelerate for the landing.
The night before my appointment with Redell, I was checking a case report
when the phone rang. It was John Steele.
“Are you still working on the saucers?” he asked. “If you are, I have a
suggestion–something that might be a real lead.”
“I could use a lead right now,” I told him.
“I can’t give you the source, but it’s one I consider reliable,” said Steele.
“This man says the disks are British developments.”
This was a new one. I hadn’t considered the British. Steele talked for over
half an hour, expanding the idea.
The saucers, his informant said, were rotating disks with cambered
surfaces–originally a Nazi device. Near the end of the war, the British had
seized all the models, along with the German technicians and scientists
who had worked on the project.
The first British types had been developed secretly in England, according
to this account. But the first tests showed a dangerous lack of control; the
disks streaked up to high altitudes, hurtling without direction. Some had
been seen over the Atlantic, some in Turkey, Spain, and other parts of
The British then had shifted operations to Australia, where a guidedmissile
test range had been set up.
(This part, I knew, could be true; there was such a range.) After improving
their remote-control system, which used both radio and radar, they had
built disks up to a hundred feet in diameter. These were launched out over
the Pacific, the first ones straight eastward over open sea. British
destroyers were stationed at 100-mile and later 500-mile intervals, to track
the missiles by radar and correct their courses. At a set time, when their
fuel was almost exhausted, the disks came down vertically and landed in
Since part of the device was sealed, the disks would float; then a special
launching ship would hoist them abroad, refuel them, and launch them back
toward a remote base in Australia, where they were landed by remote
Since then, Steele said, the disks’ range and speed had been greatly
increased. The first tests of the new disks was in the spring of 1947, his
informant had told him. The British had rushed the project, because of
Soviet Russia’s menacing attitude. Their only defense in England, the
British knew, would be some powerful guided missile that could destroy
Soviet bases after the first attack.
In order to check the range and speeds accurately, it was necessary to
have observers in the Western Hemisphere–the disks were now traversing
the Pacific. The ideal test range, the British decided, was one extending
over Canada, where the disks could be tracked and even landed, If the
account was right, said Steele, a base had been set up in the desolate
Hudson Bay country. Special radar-tracking stations had also been
established, to guide the missiles toward Australia and vessels at sea.
These stations also helped to bring in missiles from Australia.
Some of the disk missiles were supposed to have been launched from a
British island in the South Pacific; others came all the way from Australia.
Still others were believed to have been launched by a mother ship
stationed between the Galapagos Islands and Pitcairn.
It was these new disks that had been seen in the United States, Alaska,
Canada, and Latin America, Steele’s informant had told him. At first, the
sightings were due to imperfect controls; the disks sometimes failed to
keep their altitude, partly because of conflicting radio and radar beams
from the countries below.
Responding to some of these mixed signals, Steele said, the disks had
been known to reverse course, hover or descend over radar and radio
stations, or circle around at high speeds until their own control system
picked them up again.
For this reason, the British had arranged a simple detonator system,
operated either by remote control or automatically under certain
conditions. In this way, no disk would crash over land, with the danger of
hitting a populated area. If it descended below a certain altitude, the disk
would automatically speed up its rotation, then explode at a high altitude.
When radar trackers saw that a disk was off course and could not be
realigned, the nearest station then sent a special signal to activate the
detonator system. This was always done, Steele had been told, when a
disk headed toward Siberia; there had previously been a few cases when
Australian-launched disks had got away from controllers and appeared
I listened to Steele’s account with mixed astonishment and suspicion. It
sounded like a pipe dream; but if it was, it had been carefully thought out,
especially the details that followed.
At first, Steele said, American defense officials had been completely
baffled by the disk reports. Then the British, learning about the sightings,
had hastily explained to top-level American officials. An agreement had
been worked out. We were to have the benefit of their research and testing
and working models, in return for helping to conceal the secret. We were
also to aid in tracking and controlling the missiles when they passed over
“And I gather we paid in other ways,” Steele said. “My source says this
played a big part in increasing our aid to Britain, including certain atomic
That could make sense. Sharing such a secret would be worth all the
money and supplies we had poured into England. If America and Great
Britain both had a superior long-range missile, it would be the biggest
factor I knew for holding off war. But the long ranges involved in Steele’s
explanation made the thing incredible.
“How are they powered? What fuel do they use?” I asked him.
“That’s the one thing I couldn’t get,” said Steele. “This man told me it was
the most carefully guarded secret of all. They’ve tapped a new source of
“If he means atomic engines,” I said, “I don’t believe it. I don’t think anyone
is that far along.”
“No, no,” Steele said earnestly, “he said it wasn’t that. And the rest of the
story hangs together.”
Privately, I thought of two or three holes, but I let that go.
“If it’s British,” I said, “do you think we should even hint at it?”
“I don’t see any harm,” Steele answered. “The Russians undoubtedly know
the truth. They have agents everywhere. It might do a lot of good for
American-British relations. Anyway, it would offset any fear that the
saucers are Soviet weapons.”
“Then you’re not worried about that angle any more?”
Steele laughed. “No, but it had me going for a while. It was a big relief to
find out the disks are British.”
“What’s the disks’ ceiling?” I asked, abruptly.
“Oh–sixty thousand feet, at least,” said Steele. After a moment he added
quickly, “That’s just a guess–they probably operate much higher. I didn’t
think to ask.”
Before I hung up, he asked me what I thought, of the British explanation.
“It’s certainly more plausible than the Soviet idea,” I said. I thanked him for
calling me, and put down the phone. I was tempted to point out the flaws in
his story. But I didn’t.
If he was sincere, it would be poor thanks for what he had told me. If he
was trying to plant a fake explanation, it wouldn’t hurt to let him think I’d
swallowed it. When I saw Redell, I told him about Steele.
“It does look like an attempt to steer you away from the interplanetary
answer,” Redell agreed, “though he may be passing on a tip he believes.”
“You think there could be any truth in the British story?”
“Would the British risk a hundred-foot disk crashing in some American
city?” said Redell. “No remote control is perfect, and neither is a detonator
system. By some freak accident, a disk might come down in a place like
Chicago, and then blow up. I just can’t see the British–any more than
ourselves–letting huge unpiloted missiles go barging around the world,
flying along airways and over cities. Certainly, they could have automatic
devices to make them veer away from airliners–but what if a circuit
“I go along with that,” I said.
“I don’t say the British don’t have some long-range missiles,” Redell broke
in. “Every big nation has a guided-missile project. But no guided missile
on earth can explain the Mantell case and the others we’ve discussed.”
I showed him the material I had on the Nazi disk experiments. Redell
skimmed through it and nodded.
“I can tell you a little more,” he said. “Some top Nazi scientists were
convinced we were being observed by space visitors. They’d searched all
the old reports. Some sighting over Germany set them off about 1940.
That’s what I was told. I think that’s where they first got the idea of trying out
oval and circular airfoils.
“Up to then, nobody was interested. The rotation idea uses the same
principle as the helicopter, but nobody had even followed that through. The
Nazis went to work on the disks. They also began to rush spaceexploration
plans–the orbiting satellite idea. I think they realized these
space ships were using some great source of power we hadn’t discovered
on earth. I believe that’s what they were after–that power secret. If they’d
succeeded, they’d have owned the world. As it was, that space project
caused them to leap ahead of everybody with rockets.”
When I asked Redell how he thought the space ships were powered, he
“Probably cosmic rays hold the answer. Their power would be even
greater than atomic power. There’s another source I’ve heard mentioned,
but most people scoff at it. That’s the use of electromagnetic fields in
space. The earth has its magnetic field, of course, and so does the sun.
Probably all planets do.
“There’s a man named Fernand Roussel who wrote a book called The
Unifying Principle of Physical Phenomena, about 1943. He goes into the
electromagnetic-field theory. If he’s right, then there must be some way to
tap this force and go from one planet to another without using any fuel.
You’d use your first planet’s magnetic field to start you off and then coast
through space until you got into the field of the next planet. At least, that’s
how I understand it. But you’d be safer sticking to atomic power. That’s
Most of our conversations had been keyed to the technical side of the
flying-saucer problem. But before I left this time, I asked Redell how the
thought of space visitors affected him.
“Oh, at first I had a queer feeling about it,” he answered. “But once you
accept it, it’s like anything else. You get used to the idea.”
“One thing bothers me,” I said. “When I try to picture them, I keep
remembering the crazy-looking things in some of the comics. What do you
suppose they’re really like?”
“I’ve thought about it for months.” Redell slowly shook his head. “I haven’t
the slightest idea.”
THAT EVENING, after my talk with Redell, the question kept coming back
in my mind.
What were they like? And what were they doing here?
From the long record of sightings, it was possible to get an answer to the
second question. Observation of the earth followed a general pattern.
According to the reports, Europe, the most populated area, had been
more closely observed than the rest of the globe until about 1870. By this
time, the United States, beginning to rival Europe in industrial progress,
had evidently become of interest to the space-ship crews.
From then on, Europe and the Western Hemisphere, chiefly North
America, shared the observers’ attention.
The few sightings reported at other points around the world indicate an
occasional check-up on the earth in general. Apparently World War I had
not greatly concerned the space observers. One reason might be that our
aerial operations were still at a relatively low altitude.
But World War II had drawn more attention, and this had obviously
increased from 1947 up to the present time. Our atomic-bomb explosions
and the V-2 high-altitude experiments might be only coincidence, but I
could think of no other development that might seriously concern dwellers
on other planets.
It was a strange thing to think of some far-off race keeping track of the
earth’s progress. If Redell was right, it might even have started in
prehistoric time; a brief survey, perhaps once a century or even further
spaced, then gradually more frequent observation as cities appeared on
Somewhere on a distant planet there would be records of that long survey.
I wondered how our development would appear to that far-advanced race.
They would have seen the slow sailing ships, the first steamships, the lines
of steel tracks that carried our first trains.
Watching for our first aircraft, they would see the drifting balloons that
seemed an aerial miracle when the Montgolfiers first succeeded. More
than a century later, they would have noted the slow, clumsy airplanes of
the early 1900’s. From our gradual progress to the big planes and
bombers of today, they could probably chart our next steps toward the
stratosphere–and then space.
During the last two centuries, they would have watched a dozen wars, each
one fiercer than the last, spreading over the globe. Adding up all the things
they had seen, they could draw an accurate picture of man, the earth
creature, and the increasingly fierce struggle between the earth races.
The long survey held no sign of menace. If there had been a guiding
purpose of attack and destruction, it could have been carried out years
ago. It was almost certain that any planet race able to traverse space
would have the means for attack.
More than once, during this investigation, I had been asked: “If the saucers
are interplanetary, why haven’t they landed here? Why haven’t their crews
tried to make contact with us?”
There was always the possibility that the planet race or races could not
survive on earth, or that their communications did not include the methods
that we used. But I found that hard to believe. Such a superior race would
certainly be able to master our radio operations, or anything else that we
had developed, in a fairly short time. And it should be equally simple to
devise some means of survival on earth, just as we were already planning
special suits and helmets for existence on the moon. During a talk with a
former Intelligence officer, I got a key to the probable explanation.
“Why don’t you just reverse it–list what we intend to do when we start
exploring space? That’ll give you the approximate picture of what visitors to
the earth would be doing.”
Naturally, all the details of space plans have not been worked out, but the
general plan is clear. After the first successful earth satellites, we will either
attempt a space base farther out or else launch a moon rocket.
Probably many round trips to the moon will be made before going farther in
Which planet will be explored first, after the moon?
According to Air Force reports, it is almost a certainty that planets outside
the solar system are inhabited.
But because of the vast distances involved, expeditions to our neighboring
planets may be tried before the more formidable journeys. More than one
prominent astronomer believes that life, entirely different from our own,
may exist on some solar planets. Besides Mars, Jupiter, and Venus, there
are five more that, like the earth, revolve around the sun.
One of the prominent authorities is Dr. H. Spencer Jones, Astronomer
Royal. In his book Life on Other Worlds, Dr. Jones points out that
everything about us is the result of changing processes, begun millenniums
ago and still going on. We cannot define life solely in our own terms; it can
exist in unfamiliar forms.
“It is conceivable,” Dr. Jones states in his book, “that we could have
beings, the cells of whose bodies contained silicon instead of the carbon
which is an essential constituent of our cells and of all other living cells on
the earth. And that because of this essential difference between the
constitution of those cells and the cells of which animal and plant life on the
earth are built up, they might be able to exist at temperatures so high that
no terrestrial types of life could survive.”
According to Dr. Jones, then, life could be possible on worlds hotter and
drier than ours; it could also exist on a very much colder one, such as Mars.
Even if a survey of the sun’s planets proved fruitless, it would decide the
question of their being populated.
Also, it would provide valuable experience for the much longer journeys
No one expects such a survey until we have a space vehicle able to make
the round trip. One-way trips would tell us nothing, even if volunteers
offered to make such suicidal journeys.
The most probable step will be to launch a space vehicle equipped with
supplies for a long time, perhaps a year or two, within the solar system.
Since Mars has been frequently mentioned as a source of the flying
saucers, let’s assume it would be the first solar-system planet to be
explored from the earth.
As the space ship neared Mars, it could be turned to circle the planet in an
orbit, just like our planned earth satellite vehicle. Once in this orbit, it could
circle indefinitely without using fuel except to correct its course.
From this space base, unmanned remote-control “observer” units with
television “eyes” or other transmitters would be sent down to survey the
planet at close range. If it then seemed fairly safe, a manned unit could be
released to make a more thorough check-up.
Such preliminary caution would be imperative. Our explorers would have
no idea of what awaited them. The planet might be uninhabited. It might be
peopled by a fiercely barbarous race unaware of civilization as we know it.
Or it might have a civilization far in advance of ours.
The explorers would first try to get a general idea of the whole planet. Then
they would attempt to examine the most densely populated areas, types of
armature, any aircraft likely to attack them. Combing the radio spectrum,
they would pick up and record sounds and signals in order to decipher the
As on earth, they might hear a hodgepodge of tongues. The next step
would be to select the most technically advanced nation, listen in, and try to
learn its language, or record it for deciphering afterward on earth.
Our astronomers already have analyzed Mars’s atmosphere, but the
explorers would have to confirm their reports, to find out whether the
atmosphere at the surface would support their lungs if they landed. The
easiest way would be to send down manned or unmanned units with
special apparatus to scoop in atmosphere samples. Later analysis would
tell whether earthlings would need oxygen-helmet suits such as we plan to
use on the moon.
But before risking flight at such low altitudes, the explorers would first learn
everything possible about the planet’s aircraft, if any. They would try to
determine their top ceiling, maximum speed, maneuverability, and if
possible their weapons. Mitch of this could be done by sending down
remote-control “observer” disks, or whatever type we decide to use. A
manned unit might make a survey at night, or in daytime with clouds nearby
to shield it. By hovering over the planet’s aircraft bases, the explorers could
get most of the picture, and also decide whether the bases were suitable
for their own use later.
It might even be necessary to lure some Martian aircraft into pursuit of our
units, to find out their performance. But our explorers would above all avoid
any sign of hostility; they would hastily. withdraw to show they had no
If the appearance of our observer units and manned craft caused too
violent reactions on the planet, the explorers would withdraw to their
orbiting space vehicle and either wait for a lull or else start the long trip
back home. Another interplanetary craft from the earth might take its place
later to resume periodic surveys.
In this way, a vast amount of information could be collected without once
making contact with the strange race. If they seemed belligerent or
uncivilized, we would probably end our survey and check on the next
possibly inhabited planet. If we found they were highly civilized, we would
undoubtedly attempt later contact. But it might take a long time, decades of
observation and analysis, before we were ready for that final step.
We might find a civilization not quite so advanced as ours. It might not yet
have developed radio and television. We would then have no way of
getting a detailed picture, learning the languages, or communicating with.
the Martians. Analysis of their atmosphere might show a great hazard to
earthlings, one making it impossible to land or requiring years of research
to overcome. There might be other obstacles beyond our present
This same procedure would apply to the rest of the solar-system planets
and to more distant systems. Since Wolf 359 is the nearest star outside
our system that is likely to have inhabited planets, one of these planets
would probably be listed as the first to explore in far-distant space. It would
be a tremendous undertaking, unless the speed of light can be exceeded
in space. Since Wolf 359 is eight light-years from the earth, even if a
space ship traveled at the theoretical maximum–just under 186,00 miles a
second–it would take over sixteen years for the round trip. Detailed
observation of the planet would add to this period.
If we assume half that speed–which would still be an incredible attainment
with our present knowledge–
our space explorers would have to dedicate at least thirty-two years to the
hazardous, lonely round trip.
However, there has never been a lack of volunteers for grand undertakings
in the history of man.
It is quite possible that in our survey of the solar-system planets we would
find some inhabited, but not advanced enough to be of interest to us.
Periodically, we might make return visits to note their progress.
Meantime, our astronomers would watch these planets, probably
developing new, higher powered telescopes for the purpose, to detect any
signs of unusual activity. Any tremendous explosion on a planet would
immediately concern us.
Such an explosion, on Mars, was reported by astronomers on January 16,
1950. The cause and general effects are still being debated. Sadao
Saeki, the Japanese astronomer who first reported it at Osaka, believes it
was of volcanic nature.
The explosion created a cloud over an area about seven hundred miles in
diameter and forty miles high. It was dull gray with a yellowish tinge and a
different color from the atmospheric phenomena customarily seen near
Mars. Saeki believes the blast might have destroyed any form of life
existing on the planet, but even though the telescopic camera recorded a
violent explosion, other authorities do not believe the planet was wrecked.
The canals first discovered on Mars by Giovanni Schiaparelli, about 1877,
are still apparent on photographs.
Mars is now being carefully watched by astronomers. If there are more of
the strange explosions, the planet will be scanned constantly for some clue
to their nature.
If a mysterious explosion on Mars, or any other planet, were found of
atomic origin, it would cause serious concern on earth. Suppose for a
moment that it happened many years from now, when we will have
succeeded in space explorations. At this time, let us assume our explorers
have found that Mars is experimenting with high-altitude rockets; some of
them have been seen, rising at tremendous speed, in the upper
atmosphere of Mars.
Then comes this violent explosion. A scientific analysis of the cloud by
astrophysicists here on earth proves it was of atomic origin.
The first reaction would undoubtedly be an immediate resurvey of Mars. As
quickly as possible, we would establish an orbiting space base–out of
range of Martian rockets–and try to find how far they had advanced with
Samples of the Martian atmosphere would be collected and analyzed for
telltale radiation. Observer units would be flown over the planet, with
instruments to locate atom-bomb plants and possibly uranium deposits.
The rocket-launching bases would also come under close observation. We
would try to learn how close the scientists were to escaping the pull of
gravity. Since Mars’s gravity is much less than the earth’s, the Martians
would not have so far to progress before succeeding in space travel.
The detailed survey by our space-base observers would probably show
that there was no immediate danger to the earth. It might take one hundred
years–perhaps five hundred–before the Martians could be a problem.
Eventually, the time would come when Mars would send out space-ship
explorers. They would undoubtedly discover that the earth was populated
with a technically advanced civilization. Any warlike ideas they had in mind
could be quickly ended by a show of our superior space craft and our own
atomic weapons–probably far superior to any on Mars. It might even be
possible that by then we would have finally outlawed war; if so, a promise
to share the peaceful benefits of our technical knowledge might be enough
to bring Martian leaders into line.
Regardless of our final decision, we would certainly keep a lose watch on
Mars–or any other planet that seemed a possible threat.
Now, if our space-exploration program is just reversed, it will give a
reasonable picture of how visitors from space might go about investigating
the earth. Such an investigation would tie in with the general pattern of
authentic flying-saucer reports:
1. World-wide sightings at long intervals up to the middle of the nineteenth
2. Concentration on Europe, as the most advanced section of the globe,
until late in the nineteenth century.
3. Frequent surveys of America in the latter part of the nineteenth century,
as we began to develop industrially, with cities springing up across the
4. Periodic surveys of both America and Europe during the gradual
development of aircraft, from the early 1900’s up to World War II.
5. An increase of observation during World War II, after German V-2’s
were launched up into the stratosphere.
6. A steadily increasing survey after our atomic-bomb explosions in New
Mexico, Japan, Bikini, and Eniwetok.
7. A second spurt of observations following atom-bomb explosions in
8. Continuing observations of the earth at regular intervals, with most
attention concentrated on the United States, the present leader in atomic
weapons. (Saucers have been reported seen over the Soviet Union, but
the number is unknown. There is some evidence that Russia has an
investigative unit similar to Project
There are other points of similarity to the program of American space
exploration that I have outlined. Most of the extremely large saucers have
been at high altitudes, some of them many miles above the earth. At that
height, a space ship would be in no danger from our planes and antiaircraft
guns and rockets. The smaller disks and the mystery lights have been seen
at low altitudes. Occasionally a larger saucer has been seen to approach
the earth briefly, as at Lockbourne Air Force Base, at Bethel, Alabama, at
Macon and Montgomery, and other places. It has been suggested that this
was for the purpose of securing atmospheric samples. It could also be to
afford personal observation by the crews.
The numerous small disks seen in the first part of the scare, in 1947, fit the
pattern for preliminary and close observation by remote-controlled
observer units. As the scare increased, the daytime sightings decreased
for a while, and mystery lights began to be seen more often. This apparent
desire to avoid unfavorable attention could have been caused by our pilots’
repeated attempts to chase the strange flying objects.
Authentic reports have described sightings; over the following Air Force
bases: Chanute, Newark, Andrews, Hickam, Robbins, Godman, Clark,
Fairfield Suisan, Davis-Monthan, Harmon, Wright-Patterson, Holloman,
Clinton County Air Force Base, and air bases in Alaska, Germany, and the
Azores. Saucers have also been sighted over naval air stations at Dallas,
Alameda, and Key West, and from the station at Seattle. They have been
reported maneuvering over the White Sands Proving Ground, over areas
containing atomic developments, above the Muroc Air Base testing area,
and over the super-secret research base near Albuquerque.
Several times saucers have paced both military and civil aircraft; their
actions strongly indicate deliberate encounters to learn our planes’ speed
It seems obvious that both the planes and the bases were being observed,
and in some cases photographed by remote-control units or manned
Although I thought it improbable that the location of our uranium deposits
would be of interest to space men, a Washington official told me it would
be relatively simple to detect the ore areas with airborne instruments.
“The Geological Survey has already developed special Geiger counters
for planes,” he told me. “They had a little trouble from cosmic-ray noise.
They finally had to cover the Geigers with lead shields. Whenever an
important amount of radiation is present in the ground, the plane crew gets
a signal, and they spot the place on their map. It’s a quick way of locating
When I told him what I had in mind, he suggested an angle I had not
“Mind you,” he said, “I’m not completely sold on the interplanetary answer.
But assuming it’s correct that we’re being observed, I can think of a
stronger reason than fear of some distant attack. Some atomic scientists
say that a super-atomic bomb, or several set off at once, could knock the
earth out of its orbit. It sounds fantastic, but so is the A-bomb. It’s just
possible that some solar-planet race discovered the dangers long ago.
They would have good reason to worry if they found we were on that same
track. There may be some other atomic weapon we don’t suspect, even
worse than the A-bomb, one that could destroy the earth and seriously
affect other planets.”
At the time, I thought this was just idle speculation. But since then, several
atomic scientists have confirmed this official’s suggestion. One of these
was Dr. Paul Elliott, a nuclear physicist who worked on the A-bomb during
According to Dr. Elliott, if several hydrogen bombs were exploded
simultaneously at a high altitude, it could speed up the earth’s rotation or
change its orbit. He based his statement on the rate of energy the earth
receives from the sun, a rate equal to some four pounds of hydrogen
exploded every second. Still other atomic scientists have said that H-bomb
explosions might even knock a large chunk out of the earth, with
A dramatic picture of what might happen if the earth were forced far out of
its orbit is indicated in the much-discussed book Worlds in Collision, by
Dr. Immanuel Velikovsky, recently published by Macmillan.
After many years of research, Dr. Velikovsky presents strong evidence that
the planet Venus, when still a comet resulting from eruption from a larger
planet, moved erratically about the sky and violently disturbed both the
earth and Mars.
When the comet approached the earth, our planet was forced out of its
orbit, according to Worlds in Collision. For a time, the world was on the
brink of destruction. Quoting many authentic ancient records, including the
Quiche manuscript of the Mayas, the Ipuwer papyrus of the Egyptians, and
the Visiddhi-Magga of the Buddhists, Dr. Velikovsky describes the
cataclysm that took place. “The face of the earth changed,”
he writes in his book. The details, reinforced by the Zend-Avesta of the
Persians, tell of tremendous hurricanes, of a major upheaval in the earth’s
surface, of oceans rushing over many parts of the land, while rivers were
driven from their beds. Some of the events in this period are mentioned in
Professor Horace M. Kallen, former dean of the New School of Social
Research, strongly endorses Dr.
Velikovsky’s statements: “It is my belief that Velikovsky has supported his
theses with substantial evidence and made an effective and persuasive
Many other authorities endorse this work, which is documented with
impressive references. But even if this particular account is not accepted,
all astronomers agree that the effect of a comet passing near the earth
would be appalling. Worlds in Collision states that Mars, like the earth, was
pulled out of its orbit by the comet’s erratic passage. It may be that this
near disaster to the earth and Mars is known on other solar planets, or
remembered on Mars itself, if the planet is inhabited.
The possibility of super-bomb explosions on the earth understandably
disturb any dwellers on other solar-system planets.
This may be what was back of the Project “Saucer” statement on the
probable motives of any visitors from space. I mentioned this Air Force
statement in an earlier chapter, but it may be of interest to repeat it at this
time. The comment appeared in a confidential analysis of Intelligence
reports, in the formerly secret Project
“Saucer” document, “Report on Unidentified Aerial and Celestial Objects.”
It reads as follows:
“Such a civilization might observe that on earth we now have atomic
bombs and are fast developing rockets.
In view of the past history of mankind, they should be alarmed. We should
therefore expect at this time above all to behold such visitations.
“Since the acts of mankind most easily observed from a distance are Abomb
explosions, we should expect some relation to obtain between the
time of the A-bomb explosions, the time at which the space ships are
seen, and the time required for such ships to arrive from and return to
IT was early in October 1949 when I finished the reversal of our spaceexploration
plans. I spent the next two days running down a sighting report
from a town in Pennsylvania. Like three or four other tips that had seemed
important at first, it turned out to be a dud.
When I got back home, I found Ken Purdy had been trying to reach me. I
phoned him at True, and he asked me to fly up to New York the next day.
“I’ve just heard there’s another magazine working on the saucer story,” he
“Who is it?” I said.
“I don’t know yet. It may be just a rumor, but we can’t take a chance. We’ve
got to get this in the January book.”
That night I gathered up all the material. It looked hopeless to condense it
into one article, and I knew that Purdy had even more investigators’ reports
waiting for me in New York. Flying up the next morning, I suddenly thought
of a talk I’d had with an air transport official. It was in Washington; I had just
told him about the investigation.
“If they are spacemen,” he said, “they’d probably have a hard time figuring
out this country by listening to our broadcasts. Imagine tuning in soap
operas, ‘The Lone Ranger,’ and a couple of crime yarns, along with
newscasts about strikes and murders and the cold war. They might pick up
some of those kid programs about rocket ships. A few days of listening to
that stuff–well, it would give them one hell of a picture.”
Except for some hoax reports, this was the first funny suggestion I’d had
about the spacemen. But now, thinking seriously about it, I realized he had
an important point. It was possible that men from another planet might have
to reorient even their way of thinking to understand the earth’s ways. It
would not be automatic, despite their superior technical progress.
Evolution might have produced basic differences in their understanding of
life. Humor, for instance, might be totally lacking in their make-up.
What would they be like?
I’d tried to imagine how they might look, without getting anywhere. Dr. H.
Spencer Jones hadn’t helped much with his Life on Other Worlds. I couldn’t
begin to visualize beings with totally different cells, perhaps able to take
terrific heat or bitter cold as merely normal weather.
There were all kinds of possibilities. If they lived on Mars, for instance,
perhaps they couldn’t take the heavier gravity of the earth. They might be
easily subject to our diseases, especially if they had destroyed disease
germs on their planet–a natural step for an advanced race.
It was possible, I knew, that the spacemen might look grotesque to us. But I
clung to a Stubborn feeling that they would resemble man. That came, of
course, from an inborn feeling of man’s superiority over all living things. It
carried over into a feeling that any thinking, intelligent being, whether on
Mars or Wolf 359’s planets, should have evolved in the same form.
I gave up trying to imagine how the spacemen might look. There was
simply nothing to go on. But there were strong indications of how they
thought and reacted. Certain qualities were plainly evident.
Intelligence. No one could dispute that. It took a high order of mentality to
construct and operate a space ship.
Courage. It would take brave men to face the hazards of space.
Curiosity. Without this quality, they would never have thought to explore fardistant
There were other qualities that seemed almost equally certain. These
spacemen apparently lacked belligerence; there had been no sign of
hostility through all the years. They were seemingly painstaking and
It was still not much of a picture. But somehow, it was encouraging.
Glancing down from the plane’s window, I thought: How does this look to
them? Our farms, our cities, the railroads there below; the highways, with
the speeding cars and trucks; the winding river, and far off to the right, the
broad stretch of the Atlantic.
What would they think of America?
Manhattan came into sight, as the pilot let down for the landing. An odd
thought popped into my mind. How would a spaceman react if he saw a
Not long before, I had seen South Pacific. I could still hear Ezio Pinza’s
magnificent voice as he sang “Some Enchanted Evening.”
Was music a part of spacemen’s lives, or would it be something new and
strange, perhaps completely distasteful?
They might live and think on a coldly intelligent level, without a touch of what
we know as emotion. To them, our lives might seem meaningless and dull.
We ourselves might appear grotesque in form.
But in their progress, there must have been struggle, trial and error, some
feeling of triumph at success.
Surely these would be emotional forces, bound to reflect in the planet
races. Perhaps, in spite of some differences, we would find a common
bond–the bond of thinking, intelligent creatures trying to better themselves.
The airliner landed and taxied in to unload.
As I went down the gangway I suddenly realized something. My last vague
fear was gone.
It had not been a personal fear of the visitors from space. It had been a
selfish fear of the impact on my life. I realized that now.
It might be a long time before they would try to make contact. But I had a
conviction that when it came, it would be a peaceful mission, not an
ultimatum. It could even be the means of ending wars on earth.
But I had been conditioned to this thing. I had had six months of
preparation, six months to go from complete skepticism to slow, final
What if it had been thrown at me in black headlines?
Even a peaceful contact by beings from another planet would profoundly
affect the world. The story in True might play an important part in that final
effect. Carefully done, it could help prepare Americans for the official
But if it weren’t done right, we might be opening a Pandora’s box.
THAT MORNING, at True, we made the final decisions on how to handle
the story. Using the evidence of the Mantell case, the Chiles-Whitted
report, Gorman’s mystery-light encounter, and other authentic cases, along
with the records of early sightings, we would state our main conclusion: that
the flying saucers were interplanetary.
In going over the mass of reports, Purdy and I both realized that a few
sightings did not fit the space-observer pattern. Most of these reports
came from the southwest states, where guided-missile experiments were
Purdy agreed with Paul Redell that any long-range tests would be made
over the sea or unpopulated areas, with every attempt at secrecy.
“They might make short-range tests down there in New Mexico and
Arizona-maybe over Texas,” he said.
“But they’d never risk killing people by shooting the things all over the
“They’ve already set up a three-thousand-mile range for the longer runs,” I
added. “It runs from Florida into the South Atlantic. And the Navy missiles
at Point Mugu are launched out over the Pacific. Any guided missiles
coming down over settled areas would certainly be an accident. Besides
all that, no missile on earth can explain these major cases.”
Purdy was emphatic about speculating on our guided-missile research.
“Suppose you analyzed these minor cases that look like missile tests. You
might accidentally give away something important, like their range and
speeds. Look what the Russians did with the A-bomb hints Washington let
It was finally decided that we would briefly mention the guided missiles,
along with the fact that the armed services had flatly denied any link with
“After all, interplanetary travel is the main story,” said Purdy. “And the
Mantell case alone proves we’ve been observed from space ships, even
without the old records.”
The question of the story’s impact worried both of us. public acceptance of
intelligent life on other planets would affect almost every phase of our
existence-business, defense planning, philosophy, even religion. Of
course, the immediate effect was more important. Personally, I thought that
most Americans could take even an official announcement without too
much trouble. But I could be wrong.
“The only yardstick–and that’s not much good–is that ‘little men’ story,”
said Purdy. “A lot of people have got excited about it, but they seem more
interested than scared.”
The story of the “little men from Venus” had been circulating for some time.
In the usual version, two flying saucers had come down near our southwest
border. In the space craft were several oddly dressed men, three feet high.
All of them were dead; the cause was usually given as inability to stand our
The Air Force was said to have hushed up the story, so that the public
could be educated gradually to the truth. Though it had all the earmarks of
a well-thought-out hoax, many newspapers had repeated the story.
It had even been broadcast as fact on several radio newscasts. But there
had been no signs of public alarm.
“It looks as if people have come a long way since that Orson Welles
scare,” I said to Purdy.
“But there isn’t any menace in this story,” he objected. “The crews were
reported dead, so everybody got the idea that spacemen couldn’t live if
they landed. What if a space ship should suddenly come down over a big
city–say New York–low enough for millions of people to see it?”
“it might cause a stampede,” I said,
Purdy snorted. “it would be a miracle if it didn’t, unless people had been
fully prepared. if we do a straight fact piece, just giving the evidence, it will
start the ball rolling. People at least will be thinking about it.”
Before I left for Washington, I told Purdy of my last visit to the Pentagon. I
had informed Air Force press relations officials of True’s intention to
publish the space-travel answer. There had been no attempt to dissuade
me. And I had been told once again that there was no security involved;
that Project “Saucer” had found nothing threatening the safety of America.
At this time I had also asked if Project “Saucer” files were now available.
The Wright Field unit, I was told, still was a classified project, both its files
and its photographs secret. This had been the first week in October.
When I asked if there was any other information on published cases, the
answer again was negative. The April 27th report, according to Press
Branch officials, was still an accurate statement of Air Force opinions and
policies. So far as they knew, no other explanations had be n found for the
‘I in absolutely convinced now,” I told Purdy, “that here’s an official policy to
let the thing leak out. It explains why Forrestal announced our Earth
Satellite Vehicle program, years before we could even start to build it. It
also would explain those Project ‘Saucer’ hints in the April report.”
“I think we’re being used as a trial balloon,” Purdy said thoughtfully. “We’ve
let them know what we’re doing. If they’d wanted to stop us, the Air Force
could easily have done it. All they’d have to do would be call us in, give us
the dope off the record, and tell us it was a patriotic duty to keep still. Just
the way they did about uranium and atomic experiments during the war.”
He still did not have the name of the other magazine supposed to be
working on the saucers. But it seemed a reliable tip (it later proved to be
true), and from then on we worked under high pressure.
In writing the article, I used only the most authentic recent sightings; all of
the cases were in the Air Force reports. When it came to the Mantell case,
I stuck to published estimates of the strange object’s size; a mysterious
ship 250 to 300 feet in diameter was startling enough. At first, I chose Mars
to illustrate our space explorations. But Mars had been associated with the
Orson Welles stampede. Most discussions of the planet had a menacing
note, perhaps because of its warlike name.
In the end, I switched to a planet of Wolf 359. The thought of those eight
light-years would have a comforting effect on any nervous readers. The
chance of any mass visitation would seem remote, if not impossible. But it
would still put across the space-travel story.
As finally revised, the article, written under my byline, stated the following
points as the conclusions reached by True:
1. For the past 175 years, the earth has been under systematic closerange
examination by living, intelligent observers from another planet.
2. The intensity of this observation, and the frequency of the visits to the
earth’s atmosphere, have increased markedly during the past two years.
3. The vehicles used for this observation and for interplanetary transport by
the explorers have been classed as follows: Type I, a small, nonpilotcarrying
disk-shaped craft equipped with some form of television or
impulse transmitter; Type II, a very large, metallic, disk-shaped aircraft
operating on the helicopter principle; Type III, a dirigible-shaped, wingless
aircraft that, in the Earth’s atmosphere, operates in conformance with the
Prandtl theory of lift.
4. The discernible patterns of observation and exploration shown by the
so-called flying disks varies in no important particular from well-developed
American plans for the exploration of space, expected to come to fruition
within the next fifty years. There is reason to believe, however, that some
other race of thinking beings is a matter of two and a quarter centuries
ahead of us.
Following these points, I added a brief comment on the possibility of
guided missiles, adding that the Air Force had convincingly denied this as
an explanation of any sightings. As Purdy had suggested, I carefully
omitted ten minor cases that I thought might be linked with guided-missile
research. If disclosing the facts about space travel helped to divert
attention from any secret tests, so much the better.
“True accepts the official denial of any secret device,” I stated, “because
the weight of the evidence, especially the world-wide sightings, does not
support such a belief.”
Most readers, of course, would know that some guided-missile
experiments were going on, and that True was fully aware of it. But our
main purpose would be achieved.
The fact that the earth had been observed by beings from another planet
would be fully presented. Some readers, of course, would reject even the
fact that the saucers existed. Others would cling to the idea that they were
of earthly origin. But the mass of evidence would make most readers think.
At the very least, it would plant one strong suggestion: that we, men and
women of the earth, are not the only intelligent species in the universe.
When the article was finished, it was tried out on True’s staff, then on a
picked group that had not known about the investigation. One editor
summed up the average opinion:
“It will cause a lot of discussion, but the way it’s written, it shouldn’t start any
The January issue, in which the story ran, was due on the stands shortly
after Christmas. With my family, I had gone to Ottumwa, Iowa, to spend the
holidays with my mother and sister. While I was there, the story broke
unexpectedly on radio networks.
Frank Edwards, Mutual network newscaster, led off the radio comment. He
was followed by Walter Winchell, Lowell Thomas, Morgan Beatty, and most
of the other radio commentators. The wire services quickly picked it up;
some papers ran front-page stories.
The publicity was far more than I had expected. I phoned a reporter in
Washington whose beat includes the Pentagon.
“The Air Force is running around in circles,” he told me. “They knew your
story was due, but nobody thought it would raise such a fuss. I think they’re
scared of hysteria. They’re getting a barrage of wires and telephone calls.”
That night, as I was packing to rush back east, he called with the latest
“They’re going to deny the whole thing,” he said. “But’ I heard one Press
Branch guy say it might not be enough–they’re trying to figure some way to
knock it down fast.”
Next day, while changing trains at Chicago, I saw the Air Force statement.
The press release was dated December 27, 1949. Without mentioning
True, the Air Force flatly denied having any evidence that flying saucers
exist. After examining 375 reports, the release said, Project “Saucer” had
found that they were caused by:
1. Misinterpretation of various conventional objects.
2. A mild form of mass hysteria or “war nerves.”
3. Individuals who fabricate such reports to perpetrate a hoax or to seek
Evaluation of the reports of unidentified flying objects, said the Air Force,
demonstrates that they constitute no direct threat to the national security of
the United States.
Then came the clincher: Project “Saucer,” said the Air Force, had been
discontinued, now that all the reports had been explained.
It was plain that the release had been hastily prepared. It completely
contradicted the detailed Project
“Saucer” report, issued eight months before, that had called for constant
vigilance, after admitting that most important cases were unsolved. Anyone
familiar with the situation would see the discrepancy at once.
From Washington I flew to New York, where I found True in a turmoil. Longdistance
calls were pouring in.
Letters on flying saucers had swamped the mail room. Reporters were
hounding Purdy for more information.
A hurried analysis of the first hundred letters showed a trend that later mail
confirmed. Less than 5 per cent of the readers ridiculed the article.
Between 15 and 20 per cent said they were not convinced; a few of these
admitted they could not refute the evidence. About half the readers
accepted the possibility; most of these said they saw no reason why other
planets should not be inhabited. The remainder, between 25 and 30 per
cent, said they were completely convinced.
Even the disbelievers asked for more information. The intelligence level of
the average letter was gratifyingly high. Comments came from scientists,
engineers, airline and private pilots, college professors, officers of the
armed services, and a wide variety of others–including far more women
than True’s readership usually includes.
Several confidential tips had come in when I arrived. Most of them were
from usually reputable sources. We were given evidence that Project
“Saucer” was still in operation; since its true code name was not “Saucer,”
it could be continued without violating the Air Force press release. This
same information was received from a dozen sources within the next two
weeks. We were also told that there had been 722 cases, instead of 375.
Meantime, a number of astronomers had come out with statements, pro
and con. One of these was Dr.
Dean B. McLaughlin, of the University of Michigan.
“No one knows what the saucers are as yet,” Dr. McLaughlin said. “They
could be anything, and I’m willing to be convinced once the evidence is
Dr. Bart J. Bok of Harvard was on the fence: “After all,” he said, “all sort of
things float around in space. But I’m not convinced the saucers are
anything apart from the earth.”
Another Harvard astronomer, Dr. Armin J. Deutsch, took an oblique poke
at True and me. “I don’t think anyone–and that includes astronomers–
knows enough about them to reach any conclusions.”
After this came the comment of Dr. Carl F. von Weizacker–that billions of
stars may have planets, and many could be inhabited.
Within a few days we had a huge stack of clippings, some supporting True,
some deriding us. In the midst of all this, I read scientists’ comments on
Einstein’s new unified-field theory, which had been printed about the time
True appeared on the stands. A discussion by Lincoln Barnett, author of
The Universe and Dr.
Einstein, explained the basic premise–that gravitation and
electromagnetic force are inseparable. As I read it, I thought of what Redell
had said. If gravitation were a manifestation of electromagnetic force, was
it possible that an advanced race had found a way–as unique as splitting
the atom–to offset gravity and utilize that force?
It was during these first tense days that we ran down the White Sands
story. This also ended another puzzle–the identity of the magazine that we
had feared might scoop us.
The race had been closer than we knew. The editors of a national
magazine had learned of Commander McLaughlin and the sightings at
White Sands. Two of the staff had carefully investigated the details.
Convinced that the report was accurate, they had planned to run the story
in an early issue.
Since True had appeared first with the space-travel story, the editors
agreed to release the McLaughlin report for use in our March issue. The
basic facts were in close agreement with what Redell had told me.
The ellipsoid-shaped saucer had been tracked at a height of 56 miles, its
speed 5 miles per second. This was 18,000 miles per hour, even faster
than Redell had said. The strange craft, 105 feet in length, had climbed as
swiftly as Marvin Miles had described it–an increase in altitude of about 25
miles in 10 seconds.
Commander McLaughlin stated in his article that he was convinced the
object was a space ship from another planet, operated by animate,
intelligent beings. He also described two small circular objects, about
twenty inches in diameter, that streaked up beside a Navy high-altitude
missile. After maneuvering around it for a moment, both disks accelerated,
passed the fast-moving Navy missile, and disappeared.
It is Commander McLaughlin’s opinion that the saucers come from Mars.
Pointing out that Mars was in a good position to see our surface on July
16, 1945, he believes that the flash of the first A-bomb, at Alamogordo
Base, a point not far from White Sands, was caught by powerful
During the first week of January, I appeared on “We, the People,” with
Lieutenant George Gorman. When I saw Gorman, before rehearsals, he
seemed oddly constrained. I had a feeling that he had been warned about
talking freely. During rehearsals, he changed his lines in the script. When
the writers argued over a point, Gorman told them:
“I can say only what was in my published report–nothing else.”
The day before the broadcast, a program official told me they had been
told to include the Air Force denial in the script. That afternoon I learned
that the Air Force planned to monitor the broadcast.
Meantime, an A.P. story carried a new Air Force announcement. Formerly
secret Project “Saucer” files would be opened to newsmen at the
Pentagon, giving the answers to all the saucer reports.
Just after my return to Washington, I saw an I.N.S. story that was widely
printed. It was an interview with Major Jerry Boggs, a Project “Saucer”
Intelligence officer who served as liaison man between Wright Field and
the Pentagon. Major Boggs had been asked for specific answers to the
Mantell, Chiles-Whitted, and Gorman cases.
The answers he gave amazed me. I picked up the phone and called the Air
Force Press Branch. After some delay, I was told that Major Boggs was
being briefed for assignment to Germany. An interview would be almost
“He wasn’t too busy to talk with I.N.S.,” I said. “All I want is thirty minutes.”
Later, Jack Shea, a civilian press official I had known for some time,
arranged for the meeting. I was also to talk with General Sory Smith,
Deputy Director for Air Information.
Major Jesse Stay, a Press Branch officer, took me to General Smith’s
office for the interview. Both Jesse and Jack Shea, pleasant, obliging
chaps who had helped me in the past, tried earnestly to convince me the
saucers didn’t exist. Jesse was still trying when Major Boggs came in.
Boggs looked to be in his twenties, younger than I had expected. He was
trim, well built, with a quietly alert face. Two rows of ribbons testified to his
wartime service. When Jesse Stay introduced me, Boggs gave me a
curiously searching look. It could have been merely his usual way of
appraising people he met. But all through our talk, I had a strong feeling
that he was on his guard.
I had written out some questions, but first I mentioned the I.N.S. story.
“Were you quoted correctly on the Mantell case?” I asked.
“Yes, I was.” Major Boggs looked me squarely in the eye. “Captain Mantell
was chasing the planet Venus.”
It was so incredible that I shook my head. “Major, Venus; was practically
invisible that day. We’ve checked with astronomers. Is that the official Air
“Yes, it is,” Boggs said. His eyes never left my face. I glanced across at
General Sory Smith, then back at the intelligence major.
“That’s a flat contradiction of Project ‘Saucer’s’ report. Last April, after they
had checked for fifteen months, they said positively it was not Venus. It was
Boggs said, in a slow, unruffled voice, “They rechecked after that report.”
“Why did they recheck, after fifteen months?” I asked him. “‘They must
have gone over those figures long before that, for errors.”
If my question annoyed him, Boggs gave no sign.
There’s no other possible answer,” he said. “Mantell was chasing Venus.”
FOR A MOMENT after Boggs’s last answer, I had an impulse to end the
interview. I had a feeling I was facing a sphinx–a quiet, courteous sphinx in
an Air Force uniform.
I was sure now why Major Jerry Boggs had been chosen for his job, the allimportant
connecting link with the project at Wright Field. No one would
ever catch this man off guard, no matter what secret was given him to
conceal. And it was more than the result of Air Force Intelligence training.
His manner, his voice carried conviction. He would have convinced anyone
who had not carefully analyzed the Godman Field tragedy.
I made one more attempt. “Do the Godman Field witnesses–Colonel Hix
and the rest–believe the Venus answer?”
“I haven’t asked them,” said Boggs, “so I couldn’t say.”
“What about the Chiles-Whitted case?” I asked. “You were quoted as
saying they saw a meteor–a bolide that exploded in a shower of sparks.”
“That’s right,” said Boggs.
“And Gorman was chasing a lighted balloon?”
Again the Intelligence major nodded. I pointed, out that all three of the
cases mentioned had been listed as unidentified in the April report.
“They’d had those cases for months,” I said. “What new facts did they
Boggs said calmly, “They just made a final analysis, and those were the
We looked at each other a moment. Major Boggs patiently waited. I began
to realize how a lawyer must feel with an imperturbable witness. And
Boggs’s unfailing courtesy began to make me embarrassed.
“Major,” I said, “I hope you’ll realize this is not a personal matter. As an
Intelligence officer, if you’re told to give certain answers–”
He smiled for the first time. “That’s all right–but I’m not hiding a thing.
There’s just no such thing as a flying saucer, so far as we’ve found out.”
“We’ve been told,” I said, “that Project ‘Saucer’ isn’t closed–that you just
changed its code name.”
“That’s not so,” Boggs said emphatically. “The contracts are ended, and all
personnel transferred to other duty.”
“Then the announcement wasn’t caused by True’s article?”
Both General Smith and Major Jesse Stay shook their heads quickly.
Boggs leaned forward, eyeing me earnestly.
“As a matter of fact, we’d finished the investigation months ago–around
the end of August, or early in September. We just hadn’t got around to
“Last October,” I said, “I was told the investigation was still going on. They
said there were no new answers to the cases just mentioned.”
“The Press Branch hadn’t been informed yet,” Boggs explained simply.
“It seems very strange to me,” I said. “In April, the Air Force called for
vigilance by the civilian population. It said the project was young, much of
its work still under way.”
Jesse Stay interrupted before Boggs could reply.
“Don, the Press Branch will have to take the blame for that. The report
wasn’t carefully checked. There were several loose statements in it.”
This was an incredible statement. I was sure Jesse knew it.
“But the case reports you quoted came from Wright Field. As of April
twenty-seventh, 1949, all the major cases were officially unsolved. Then in
August or early September, the whole thing’s cleaned up, from what Major
Boggs says. That’s pretty hard to believe.”
No one answered that one. Major Boggs was waiting politely for the next
question. I picked up my list. The rest of the interview was in straight
question-and-answer style: Q. Do you know about the White Sands
sightings in April 1948? The ones Commander R. B. McLaughlin has
A. Yes, we checked the reports. We just don’t believe them.
Q. One of the witnesses was Charles B. Moore, the director of the Navy
cosmic-ray project at Minneapolis, He’s considered a very reputable
engineer. Did you know he confirms the first report–the one about the
saucer 56 miles up, at a speed of eighteen thousand miles per hour.
A. Yes, I knew about him. We think he was mistaken, like the others.
Q. Mr. Moore says it was absolutely sure it was not hallucination. He says it
should be carefully investigated.
A. We did investigate. We just don’t believe they saw anything.
Q. Could I see the complete file on that case? Also on Mantell, Gorman,
and the Eastern Airlines cases?
A. That’s out of my province.
Q. If Project “Saucer” is ended, then all the files should be opened.
A. Well, the summaries have been cleared, and you can see them.
Q. No, I mean the actual files. Is there any reason I shouldn’t see them?
A. There’d be a lot of material to search through. Each case has a
separate book, and some of them are pretty bulky.
Q. There were 722 cases in all, weren’t there?
A. No, nowhere near that.
Q. Then 375 is the total figure–I mean the number of cases Project
A. There were a few more–something over four hundred. I don’t know the
Q. I’ve been told that Project “Saucer” had the Air Force put out a special
order for pilots to chase flying saucers. Is that right?
A. Yes, that’s right.
Q. Did that include National Guard pilots?
A. Yes, it did. When the project first started checking on saucers we were
naturally anxious to get hold of one of the things. We told the pilots to do
practically anything in reason, even if they had to grab one by the tail.
Q. Were any of those planes armed?
A. Only if they happened to have guns for some other mission, like gunnery
Q. We’ve heard of one case where fighters chased a saucer to a high
altitude. One of them emptied his guns at it.
A. You must mean that New Jersey affair. The plane was armed for another
Q. No, I meant a case reported out at Luke Field. Three fighters took off, if
the story sent us is correct.
Apparently it made quite a commotion. That was back in 1945.
A. It might have happened. I don’t know.
Q. What was this New Jersey case?
A. I’d rather not discuss any more cases without having the books here.
Q. Has Project “Saucer” released its secret pictures?
A. What pictures? There weren’t any that amounted to anything. Maybe half
a dozen. They didn’t show anything, just spots on film or weather balloons
at a distance.
Q. In the Kenneth Arnold case, didn’t some forest rangers verify his report?
A. Well, there were some people who claimed they saw the same disks.
But we found out later they’d heard about it on the radio.
Q. Didn’t they draw some sketches that matched Arnold’s?
A. I never heard about it.
Q. I’d like to go back to the Mantell case a second. If Venus was so bright–
remember Mantell thought it was a huge metallic object–why didn’t the pilot
who made the search later on–
A. Well, it was Venus, that’s positive. But I can’t remember all the details
without the case books.
Q. One more question, Major. Have any reports been received at Wright
Field since Project “Saucer” closed?
There was a case after that date, an airliner crew–
At this point, Major Jesse Stay broke in.
“It’s all up to the local commanders now. If they want to receive reports of
anything unusual, all right. And if they want to investigate them, that’s up to
each commander. But no Project ‘Saucer’ teams will check on reports.
That’s all ended.”
There at the last, it had been a little. like a courtroom scene, and I was glad
the interview was over. Major Boggs was unruffled as ever. I apologized for
the barrage of questions, and thanked him for being so decent about it.
“It was interesting, getting your viewpoint,” he said. He smiled, still the
courteous sphinx, and went on out.
After Bogs had left, I talked with General Smith alone. I told him I was not
“I’d like to see the complete files on these cases I mentioned,” I explained.
“Also, I’d like to talk with the last commanding officer or senior Intelligence
officer attached to Project ‘Saucer.'”
“I’m not sure about the senior officer,” General Smith answered. “He may
have been detached already. But I don’t see any reason why you can’t see
those files. I’ll phone Wright Field and call you.”
I was about to leave, but he motioned for me to sit down.
“I can understand how you feel about the Mantell report,” General Smith
said earnestly. “I knew Tommy Mantell very well. And Colonel Hix is a
classmate of mine. I knew neither one was the kind to have hallucinations.
That case got me, at first.”
“You believe Venus is the true answer?” I asked him.
He seemed surprised. “It must be, if Wright Field says so.”
When I went back to the Press Branch, I asked Jack Shea for the casereport
summaries that Boggs had mentioned, He got them for me–two
collections of loose-leaf mimeographed sheets enclosed in black binders.
So these were the “secret files”!
Across the hall, in the press room, I opened one book at random. The first
thing I saw was this:
“A meteorologist should compute the approximate energy required to
evaporate as much cloud as shown in the incident 26 photographs.”
Major Boggs had said there were no important pictures.
I tucked the binders under my arm and went out to my car. Perhaps these
books hinted at more than Boggs had realized. But that didn’t seem likely.
As liaison man, he should know all the answers. I was almost positive that
But I was equally sure they weren’t the answers he had given me.
THAT NIGHT I went through the Project “Saucer” summary of cases. It was
a strange experience.
The first report I checked was the Mantell case. Nothing that Boggs had
said had changed my firm opinion.
I knew the answer was not Venus, and I was certain Boggs knew it, too.
The Godman Field incident was listed as Case 33. The report also
touches on the Lockbourne Air Base sighting. As already described, the
same mysterious object, or a similar one, was seen moving at five hundred
miles an hour over Lockbourne Field. It was also sighted at other points in
The very first sentence in Case 33 showed a determined attempt to
explain away the object that Mantell chased:
“Detailed attention should be given to any possible astronomical body or
phenomenon which might serve to identify the object or objects.”
(Some of the final Project report on Mantell has been given in an earlier
chapter. I am repeating a few paragraphs below, to help in weighing Major
These are official statements of the Project astronomer:
“On January 7, 1948, Venus was less than half its full brilliance. However,
under exceptionally good atmospheric conditions, and with the eye
shielded from the direct rays of the sun, Venus might be seen as an
exceedingly tiny bright point of light. It is possible to see it in daytime when
one knows exactly where to look. Of course, the chances of looking at the
right spot are very few.
“It has been unofficially reported that the object was a Navy cosmic ray
balloon. If this can be established it is to be preferred as an explanation.
However, if reports from other localities refer to the same object, any such
device must have been a good many miles high–25 to 50–in order to have
been seen clearly, almost simultaneously, from places 175 miles apart.”
This absolutely ruled out the balloon possibility, as the investigator fully
realized. That he must have considered the space-ship answer at this point
is strongly indicated in the following sentence:
“If all reports were of a single object, in the knowledge of this investigator
no man-made object could have been large enough and far enough away
for the approximate simultaneous sightings.”
The next paragraph of this Project “Saucer” report practically nullified
Major Boggs’s statement that Venus was the sole explanation:
“It is most unlikely, however, that so many separate persons should at that
time have chanced on Venus in the daylight sky. It seems therefore much
more probable that more than one object was involved. The sighting might
have included two or more balloons (or aircraft) or they might have
included Venus (in the fatal chase) and balloons. . . . Such a hypothesis,
however, does still necessitate the inclusion of at least two other objects
than Venus, and it certainly is coincidental that so many people would have
chosen this one day to be confused (to the extent of reporting the matter)
by normal airborne objects. . . .”
Farther on in the summaries, I found a report that has an extremely
significant bearing on the Mantell case.
This was Case 175, in which the same consultant attempts to explain a
strange daylight sighting at Santa Fe, New Mexico.
One of the Santa Fe observers described the mysterious aerial object as
round and extremely bright, “like a dime in the sky.” Here is what the
Project “Saucer” investigator had to say:
“The magnitude of Venus was -3.8 (approximately the same as on January
7, 1948). it could have been visible in the daylight sky. It would have
appeared, however, more like a pinpoint of brilliant light than ‘like a dime in
the sky.’ It seems unlikely that it would be noticed at all. . . . Considering
discrepancies in the two reports, I suggest the moon in a gibbous phase;
in daytime this is unusual and most people are not used to it, so that they
fail to identify it. While this hypothesis has little to correspond to either
report, it is worth mentioning.
“It seems far more probable that some type of balloon was the object in
Both the Godman Field and the Santa Fe cases were almost identical, so
far as the visibility of Venus was concerned. In the Santa Fe case, which
had very little publicity, Project “Saucer” dropped the Venus explanation as
a practically impossible answer. But in Case 33, it had tried desperately to
make Venus loom up as a huge gleaming object during Mantell’s fatal
There was only one explanation: Project “Saucer” must have known the
truth from the start-that Mantell had pursued a tremendous space ship. That
fact alone, if it had exploded in the headlines at that time, might have
caused dangerous panic. To make it worse, Captain Mantell had been
killed. Even if he had actually died from blacking out while trying to follow
the swiftly ascending space ship, few would have believed it. The story
would spread like wildfire: Spacemen kill an American Air Force Pilot!
This explained the tight lid that had been clamped down at once on the
Mantell case. It was more than a year before that policy had been changed;
then the first official discussions of possible space visitors had begun to
True’s plans to announce the interplanetary answer would have fitted a
program of preparing the people.
But the Air Force had not expected such nation-wide reaction from True’s
article; that much I knew.
Evidently, they had not suspected such a detailed analysis of the Godman
Field case, in particular. I could see now why Boggs, Jesse Stay, and the
others had tried so hard to convince me that we had made a mistake.
It was quite possible that we had revived that first Air Force fear of
dangerous publicity. But Mantell had been dead for two years. News
stories would not have the same impact now, even if they did report that
spacemen had downed the pilot. And I doubted that there would be
headlines. Unless the Air Force supplied some
convincing details, the manner of his death would still be speculation.
Apparently I had been right; this case was the key to the riddle. It had been
the first major sighting in 1948.
Project “Saucer” had been started immediately afterward. In searching for
a plausible answer, which could be published if needed, officials had
probably set the pattern for handling all other reports, “Explaining away”
would be a logical program, until the public could be prepared for an
As I went through other case reports, I found increasing evidence to back
up this belief.
Case 1, the Muroc Air Base sightings, had plainly baffled Project men
seeking a plausible answer. Because of the Air Force witnesses, they
could not ignore the reports. Highly trained Air Force test pilots and ground
officers had seen two fast-moving silver-colored disks circling over the
Flying at speeds of from three to four hundred miles an hour, the disks
whirled in amazingly tight maneuvers. Since they were only eight thousand
feet above the field, these turns could be clearly seen.
“It is tempting to explain the object as ordinary aircraft observed under
unusual light conditions,” the case report reads. “But the evidence of tight
circles, if maintained, is strongly contradictory.”
Although Case 1 was technically in the “unexplained” group, Wright Field
had made a final effort to explain away the reports. Said the Air Materiel
“The sightings were the result of misinterpretation of real stimuli, probably
In all the world’s history, there is no record of a three-hundred-mile-an-hour
wind. To cover the distance involved, the drifting balloons would have had
to move at this speed, or faster. If a three-hundred-mile wind had been
blowing at eight thousand feet, nothing on earth could have stood it, Muroc
Air Base would have been blown off the map.
What did the Muroc test pilots really see that day?
While searching for the Chiles-Whitted report, ran across the Fairfield
Suisan mystery-light case, which I
had learned about in Seattle. This was Case 215. The Project “Saucer”
“If the observations were exactly as stated by the witnesses, the ball of light
could not be a fireball. . . . A fireball would not have come into view at
1,000 feet and risen to 20,000. If correct, there is no astronomical
explanation. Under unusual conditions, a fireball might appear to rise
somewhat as a result of perspective.
The absence of trail and sound definitely does not favor the meteor
hypothesis, but . . . does not rule it out finally. It does not seem likely any
meteor or auroral phenomenon could be as bright as this.”
Then came one of the most revealing lines in all the case reports:
“In the almost hopeless absence of any other natural explanation, one must
consider the possibility of the object’s having been a meteor, even though
the description does not fit very well.”
One air-base officer, I recalled, had insisted that the object had been a
lighted balloon. Checking the secret report from the Air Weather Service, I
“Case 2 15. Very high winds, 60-70 miles per hour from southwest, all
levels. Definitely prohibits any balloon from southerly motion.”
This case is officially listed as answered.
In Case 19, where a cigar-shaped object was seen at Dayton, Ohio, the
Project investigator made a valiant attempt to fit an answer:
“Possibly a close pair of fireballs, but it seems unlikely. If one were to
stretch the description to its very limits and make allowances for untrained
observers, he could say that the cigar-like shape might have been illusion
caused by rapid motion, and that the bright sunlight might have made both
the objects and the trails nearly invisible.
“This investigator does not prefer that interpolation, and it should he
resorted to only if all other possible explanations fail.”
This case, too, is officially listed as answered.
Case 24, which occurred June 12, 1947, twelve days before the Arnold
sighting, shows the same determined attempt to find an explanation, no
matter how farfetched.
In this case, two fast-moving objects were seen at Weiser, Idaho, Twice
they approached the earth, then swiftly circled upward. The Project
investigator tried hard to prove that these might have been parts of a
double fireball. But at the end, he said, “In spite of all this, this investigator
would prefer a terrestrial explanation for the incident.”
It was plain that this report had not been planned originally for release to
the public. No Project investigator would have been so frank. With each
new report, I was more and more convinced that these had been
confidential discussions of various possible answers, circulated between
Project “Saucer” officials. Why they had been released now was still a
puzzle, though I began to see a glimmer of the answer.
The Chiles-Whitted sighting was listed as Case 144. As I started on the
report, I wondered if Major Boggs’s
“bolide” answer would have any more foundation than these other
The report began with these words:
“There is no astronomical explanation, if we accept the report at face
value. But the sheer improbability of the facts as stated, particularly in the
absence of any known aircraft in the vicinity, makes it necessary to see
whether any other explanation, even though farfetched, can be
After this candid admission of his intentions, the Project consultant
earnestly attempts to fit the two pilots’
space ship description to a slow-moving meteor.
“It will have to be left to the psychologists,” he goes on, “to tell us whether
the immediate trail of a bright meteor could produce the subjective
impression of a ship with lighted windows. Considering only the Chiles-
Whitted sighting, the hypothesis seems very improbable.”
As I mentioned in an earlier chapter, observers at Robbins Air Force
Base, Macon, Georgia, saw the same mysterious object streak overhead,
trailing varicolored flames. This was about one hour before Chiles and
Whitted saw the onrushing space ship.
To bolster up the meteor theory, the Project consultant suggests a onehour
error in time. The explanation: The airliner would be on daylight-saving
“If there is no time difference,” he proceeds, “the. object must have been
an extraordinary meteor. . . . in which case it would have covered the
distance from Macon to Montgomery in a minute or two.”
Having checked the time angle before, I knew this was incorrect. Both
reports were given in eastern standard time. And in a later part of the
Project report, the consultant admits this fact. But he has an alternate
answer: “If the difference in time is real, the object was some form of
known aircraft, regardless of its bizarre nature.”
The “bizarre nature” is not specified. Nor does the Project “Saucer” report
try to fit the Robbins Field description to any earth-made aircraft. The airbase
observers were struck by the object’s huge size, its projectile-like
shape, and the weird flames trailing behind. Except for the double-deck
windows, the air-base men’s description tallied with the pilots’. With the
ship at five thousand feet or higher, its windows would not have been
visible from the ground. All the observers agreed on the object’s very high
Neither of the Project “Saucer” alternate answers will fit the facts.
1. The one-hour interval has been proved correct. Therefore, as the Project
consultant admits, it could not be a meteor.
2. The Robbins Field witnesses have flatly denied it was a conventional
plane. The Air Force screened 225
airplane schedules, and proved there was no such plane in the area. No
ordinary aircraft would have caused the brilliant streak that startled the DC-
3 passenger and both of the pilots.
Major Boggs’s bolide answer had gone the way of his Venus explanation. I
wondered if the Gorman light-balloon solution would fade out the same
But the Project report on Gorman (Case 172) merely hinted at the balloon
answer. In the Appendix, there was a brief comment: “Note that standard
30 inch and 65 inch weather balloons have vertical speeds of 600
and 1100 feet per minute, respectively.”
In all the reports I have mentioned, and on through both the case books,
one thing was immediately obvious. All the testimony, all the actual
evidence was missing. These were only the declared conclusions of
Project “Saucer.” Whether they matched the actual conclusions in Wright
Field secret files there was no way of knowing.
But even in these sketch reports, I found some odd hints, clues to what
Project officials might really be thinking.
After an analysis of two Indianapolis cases, one investigator reports:
“Barring hallucination, these two incidents and 17, 75 and 84 seem the
most tangible from the standpoint of description, of all those reported, and
the most difficult to explain away as sheer nonsense.”
Case 17, I found, was that of Kenneth Arnold. But in spite of the above
admission that this case cannot be explained away, it is officially listed as
Case 75 struck a familiar note. This was the strange occurrence at Twin
Falls, Idaho, on which True had had a tip months before. A disk moving
through a canyon at tremendous speed had whipped the treetops as if by a
violent hurricane. The report was brief, but one sentence stood out with a
“Twin Falls, Idaho, August 13, 1847,” the report began. “There is clearly
nothing astronomical in this incident. . . . Two points stand out, the sky-blue
color, and the fact that the trees ‘spun around on top as if they were in a
Then came the sentence that made me sit up in my chair.
“Apparently it must be classed with the other bona fide disk sightings.”
The other bona fide sightings!
Was this a slip? Or had the Air Force deliberately left this report in the file?
If they had, what was back of it
–what was back of releasing all of these telltale case summaries?
I skimmed through the rest as quickly as possible looking for other clues.
Here are a few of the things that.
caught my eye:
Case 10. United Airlines report . . . despite conjectures, no logical
explanation seems possible. . . .
Case 122. Holloman Air Force Base, April 6, 1948. [This was the
Commander McLaughlin White Sands report.] No logical explanation. . . .
Case 124. North Atlantic, April 18, 1948 . . . radar sighting . . . no
astronomical explanation. . . .
Case 127. Yugoslav-Greek frontier, May 7, 1948 . . . information too
limited. . . .
Case 168. Arnheim, The Hague, July 20, 1948 . . . object seen four times .
. . had two decks and no wings .
. . very high speed comparable to a V-2. . . .
Case 183. Japan, October 15, 1948. Radar experts should determine
acceleration rates. . . .
Case 188. Goose Bay, Labrador, October 29, 1948. Not astronomical . . .
picked up by radar . . . radar experts should evaluate the sightings . . . .
Case 189. Goose Bay, Labrador, October 31, 1948 . . . not astronomical .
. . observed on radarscope. . . .
Case 196. Radarscope observation . . . object traveling directly into the
wind. . . .
Case 198. Radar blimp moving at high speed and continuously changing
direction. . . .
Case 222. Furstenfeldbruck, Germany, November 23, 1948 . . . object
plotted by radar DF at 27,000 feet . . .
short time later circling at 40,000 feet . . . speed estimated 200-500 m.p.h.
. . .
Case 223 . . . seventeen individuals saw and reported object . . . green
flare . . . all commercial and government airfield questioned . . . no
success. . . .
Case 224. Las Vegas, New Mexico, December 8, 1948 . . . description
exactly as in 223 . . . flare reported traveling very high speed . . . very
accurate observation made by two F.B.I. agents. . . .
Case 231 . . . another glowing green flare just as described above. . . .
Case 233 . . . definitely no balloon . . . made turns . . . accelerated from
200 to 500 miles per hour . . . .
Going back over this group of cases, I made an incredible discovery: All
but three of these unsolved cases were officially listed as answered.
The three were the United Airlines case, the White Sands sightings, and
the double-decked space-ship report from The Hague.
Going back to the first report, I checked all the summaries. Nine times out
of ten, the explanations were pure conjecture. Sometimes no answer was
Although 375 cases were mentioned, the summaries ended with Case
244. Several cases were omitted. I found clues to some of these in the
secret Air Weather Service report, including the mysterious “green light”
sightings at Las Vegas and Albuquerque.
Of the remaining 228 cases, Project “Saucer” lists all but 34 as explained.
These unsolved cases are brought up again for a final attempt at
explaining them away. In the appendix, the Air Materiel Command carefully
“It is not the intent to discredit the character of observers, but each case
has undesirable elements and these can’t be disregarded.”
After this perfunctory gesture, the A.M.C. proceeds to discredit completely
the testimony of highly trained Air Force test pilots and officers at Muroc.
(The 300-400 m.p.h. research balloon explanation.) The A.M.C. then
brushes off the report of Captain Emil Smith and the crew of a United
Airline plane. On July 4, 1947, nine huge flying disks were counted by
Captain Smith and his crew. The strange objects were in sight for about
twelve minutes; the crew watched them for the entire period and described
them in detail later.
Despite Project “Saucer’s” admission that it had no answer, the A.M.C.
contrived one. Ignoring the evidence of veteran airline pilots, it said:
“Since the sighting occurred at sunset, when illusory effect are most likely,
the objects could have been ordinary aircraft, balloons, birds, or pure
In only three cases did the A.M.C. admit it had no answer. Even here, it
was implied that the witnesses were either confused or incompetent.
In its press release of December 27, 1949, the Air Force had mentioned
375 cases. It implied that all of these were answered. The truth was just the
reverse, as was proved by these case books. Almost two hundred cases
still were shown to be unsolved-although the real answers might be hidden
in Wright Field files.
These two black books puzzled me. Why had the Air Force lifted its
secrecy on these case summaries? Why had Major Boggs given me those
answers, when these books would flatly refute them?
I thought I new the reason now but there was only one way to make sure.
The actual Wright Field files should tell the answer.
When I phoned General Sory Smith, his voice sounded a little peculiar. “I
called Wright Field,” he said. “But they said you wouldn’t find anything of
value out there.”
“You mean they refused to let me see their files?”
“No, I didn’t say that. But they’re short of personnel. They don’t want to take
people off other jobs to look up the records.”
“I won’t need any help,” I said. “Major Boggs said each case had a
separate book. If they’d just show me the shelves, I could do the job in two
There was a long silence.
“I’ll ask them again,” the General said finally. “Call me sometime next
I said I would, and hung up. The message from Wright Field hadn’t
surprised me. But Smith’s changed manner did. He had sounded oddly
While I was waiting for Wright Field’s answer, Ken Purdy phoned. He told
me that staff men from Time and Life magazines were seriously checking
on the “little men” story. Both Purdy and I were sure this was a colossal
hoax, but there was just a faint chance that someone had been on the
fringe of a real happening and had made up the rest of the story.
They key man in the story seemed to be one George Koehler, of Denver,
Colorado. The morning after Purdy called, I took a plane to Denver. During
the flight I went over the “little men” story again. It had been printed in over
a hundred papers.
According to the usual version, George Koehler had accidentally learned
of two crashed saucers at a radar station on our southwest border. The
ships were made of some strange metal. The cabin was stationary, placed
within a large rotating ring.
Here is the story as it was told in the Kansas City Star:
In flight, the ring revolved at a high rate of speed, while the cabin remained
stationary like the center of a gyroscope.
Each of the two ships seen by Koehler were occupied by a crew of two. In
the badly damaged ship, these bodies were charred so badly that little
could be learned from them. The occupants of the other ship, while dead
when they were found, were not burned or disfigured, and, when Koehler
saw them, were in a perfect state of preservation. Medical reports,
according to Koehler, showed that these men were almost identical with
earth-dwelling humans, except for a few minor differences. They were of a
uniform height of three feet, were uniformly blond, beardless, and their
teeth were completely free of fillings or cavities. They did not wear
undergarments, but had their bodies taped.
The ships seemed to be magnetically controlled and powered.
In addition to a piece of metal, Koehler had a clock or automatic calendar
taken from one of the crafts.
Koehler said that the best assumption as to the source of the ships was
the planet Venus.
When I arrived at Denver, I went to the radio station where Koehler worked.
I told him that if he had proof that we could print, we would buy the story.
As the first substantial proof, I asked to see the piece of strange metal he
was supposed to have. Koehler said it had been sent to another city to be
analyzed. I asked to see pictures of the crashed saucers. These, too,
proved to be somewhere else. So did the queer “space clock” that
Koehler was said to have.
By this time I was sure it was all a gag. I had the feeling that Koehler, back
of his manner of seeming indignation at my demands, was hugely enjoying
himself. I cut the interview short and called Ken Purdy in New York.
“Well, thank God that’s laid to rest,” he said when I told him.
But even though the “little men” story had turned out-as expected–a dud,
Koehler had done me a good turn. An old friend, William E. Barrett, wellknown
fiction writer, now lived in Denver. Thanks to Koehler’s gag, I had a
pleasant visit with Bill and his family.
On the trip back, I bought a paper at the Chicago airport. On an inside
page I ran across Koehler’s name.
According to the A.P., he had just admitted the whole thing was a big joke.
But in spite of this, the “little men” story goes on and on. Apparently not
even Koehler can stop it now.
FOR TWO WEEKS after my return to Washington, General Sory Smith
held off a final answer about my trip to Wright Field. Meantime, Ken Purdy
had called him backing my request to see the Project files.
It was obvious to me that Wright Field was determined not to open the
files. But the General was trying to avoid making it official.
“Why can’t you accept my word there’s nothing to the saucers?” he asked
me one day. “You’re impeaching my personal veracity.”
But finally he saw there was no other way out. He told me I had been
officially refused permission to see the Wright Field files. Some time later,
Ken Purdy phoned General Smith.
“General, if the Air Force wants to talk to us off the record, we’ll play ball.
True will either handle it from then on whatever way you think best or we’ll
Whether this offer was relayed higher up, I don’t know. But nothing came of
Meantime, saucer reports had begun to come in from all over the country.
Some even came from abroad.
Some of these 1950 sightings have already been mentioned in early
chapters. Besides the strange affair at Tucson on February 1, there were
several other cases in February. Three of these were in South America.
One saucer was reported near the naval air station at Alameda, California.
Some were sighted in Texas, New Mexico, and other parts of the
In March, the wave of sightings reached such a height that the Air Force
again denied the saucers’
existence. This followed a report that a flying disk had crashed near
Mexico City and that the wreckage had been viewed by U. S. Air Force
Scores of Orangeburg, South Carolina, residents watched a disk that
hovered over that city on March 10. It was described as silver-bright,
turning slowly in the air before it disappeared. The day before this,
residents of Van Nuys, California, saw a bright disk moving swiftly four
hundred feet in the air. Seen through a telescope, it appeared to be fifty
feet in diameter.
Disks were reported at numerous places in Mexico, including Guadalajara,
Juarez, Mazatlan, and Durango.
On the twelfth of March, the crew and passengers of an American Airlines
ship saw a large gleaming disk high above Monterrey airport in Mexico.
Captain W. R. Hunt, the senior airline pilot, watched the disk through a
theodolite at the airport. This disk and most of the others seen in Mexico
were similar in description to the one sighted at Dayton, Ohio, on March 8.
This was the large metallic saucer that hovered high over Vandalia Airport,
until Air Force and National Guard fighters raced up after it. The disk rose
vertically into the sky at incredible speed, hovered a while longer, and then
Within twenty-four hours this mystery disk had been “identified” as the
planet Venus. (It was broad daylight.) Newspapers quoted “trained
astronomical officials in Dayton” as the source for this explanation.
Meanwhile the Mexican government newspaper, El Nacional, quoted “a
famous and reputable astronomer”
as saying the numerous disks reported over Mexico “carry visitors from
One of the strangest reports came from the naval air station at Dallas,
Texas. It was about 11:30 A.M. on March 16 when CPO Charles Lewis
saw a disk streak up at a B-36 bomber. The disk appeared about twenty
to twenty-five feet in diameter, Lewis reported. Racing at incredible speed,
it shot up under the bomber, hung there for a second, then broke away at a
45-degree angle. Following this, it shot straight up into the air and
Captain M. A. Nation, C. O. of the station, said it was “I the second report
in ten days. On March 7, said Captain Nation, a tower control operator
named C. E. Edmundson saw a similar disk flying so fast it was almost a
“He estimated its speed at three thousand to four thousand miles per
hour,” Captain Nation stated. “Of course, he had no instruments to
compute the speed, so that’s a pure estimate.”
It was some time before this when I heard the first crazy rumor about the
guided-missile display. This story, which had new details every time I
heard it described the Air Force as refusing to let the Navy announce a
new type of missile. According to the rumors, the Air Force was trying to
prove its own missile far superior, to keep the Navy from invading its longrange
bombing domain. Then the Army joined the pitched battle with still a
third guided missile, according to the rumors.
And the flying disks? Army, Navy, and Air Force missiles, launched in
droves all over the country to prove whose was the best? A public missile
race, with the joint Chiefs of Staff to decide the winner!
It seems fantastic that this theory would be believed by any intelligent
person. In effect, it accuses the armed services of deliberate, criminal
negligence, of endangering millions in the cities below.
I am convinced that some of these rumors led to at least one of the
published guesses about our missile program. One widely publicized story
stated that the flying saucers seen hurtling through our skies are actually
two types of secret weapons. One, according to radio and newspaper
accounts, is a disk that whizzes through space, halts suspended in the air,
soars to thirty thousand feet, drops to one thousand feet, and then usually
disintegrates in the air.
These saucers, it was said, ranged from 20 inches to 250 feet in diameter.
They were supposed to be pilotless–and harmless.
The second type was said to be a jet version of the Navy’s circular airfoil
“Flying Flapjack.” It was credited with fantastic speed.
The “true disks,” however, were mainly Air Force devices, according to the
“Some are guided, others are not,” said the radio commentator who
released this story. “They can stay stationary, dash off to right or left, and
move like lightning. But they are utterly harmless.”
In these “harmless” disks there was supposed to be an explosive charge
that destroyed them in mid-air at a predetermined time.
Within a few days after this story was broadcast, the United States News
and World Report declared that the saucers are real, and identified them
as jet models of Navy “Flying Flapjacks.” This magazine, which is not an
official publication despite its name, mentioned the variable-direction jet
principle that I had previously described in the True article.
These two flying-saucer “explanations” brought denials from the White
House, the Navy, and the Air Force.
The Air Force flatly declared that:
1. None of the armed forces is conducting secret experiments with diskshaped
flying objects that could be a basis for the reported phenomena.
2. There is no evidence that the latter stem from the activities of any foreign
Before this, President Truman stated he knew nothing of any such objects
being developed by the United States or any other nation.
The Navy denial came immediately after the first broadcast story. It ran:
“The Navy is not engaged in research or in flying any jet-powered, circularshaped
The Navy added that one model of a pancake-shaped aircraft, called the
Zimmerman Skimmer, was built but was never flown. However, a small,
three-thousand-pound scale model did fly and was under radio control
during flight. This last device is now being rumored as the Navy’s unpiloted
“missile,” said to have been launched over the country like the so-called
Even though all these accounts have been officially denied, many
Americans may still believe they are true.
I have no desire to criticize the authors of these stories; I believe that in
following up certain guided-missile leads they were misled into accepting
the conclusions they gave.
But these stories, particularly the accounts of huge unpiloted disks, may
have planted certain fears in the public mind-fears that are completely
unwarranted. For this reason, I have personally checked at Washington in
regard to the dangers of unpiloted missiles. Here aye the facts I learned: 1.
Neither the Army, Navy, nor Air Force has at any time staged any guidedmissile
competition as rumored.
2. No unpiloted missiles or remote-controlled experimental craft have been
tested over American cities or heavily populated areas.
3. No unpiloted missile carrying dangerous explosives, whether for
destruction of the device or other purposes, has been deliberately
launched or tested over heavily populated areas.
In regard to the so-called jet-propelled “Flying Flapjack,” I have been
assured by Admiral Calvin Bolster, of the Navy Bureau of Aeronautics, that
this type of plane has never been produced. I concede that he might make
this statement to conceal a secret development, but there is one fact of
which every American can be certain: Neither this type, nor the radiocontrolled
smaller model, has been or will be flown or launched over areas
where people would be endangered.
The three armed services are working on guided missiles. They are not
risking American lives by launching such missiles at random across the
Although most of our guided-missile projects are secret, it is possible to
give certain facts about guided-missile developments in general.
The first successful long-range missiles were produced by the Germans.
These were the buzz-bomb and.
the V-2 rocket. But research in various other types was carried on during
the war. Some of this was with oval and round types of airfoils. As already
stated by Paul Redell, there is strong evidence that the disk-shaped foil
resulted from German observations of either space ships or remote-control
“observer units.” All the Nazi space-exploration plans followed this
discovery that we were being observed by a race from another planet.
After the end of World War II, the international guided-missile race began,
with the British, Russians, and ourselves as the chief contenders.
Numerous types have been developed-winged bombs, small radar-guided
projectiles launched from planes, and ground-to-plane plane-to-ground,
and plane-to-plane missiles, equipped with target homing devices.
In certain recent types, the range can be stated as several hundred miles.
So far as I have learned, after weeks of rechecking this point, not a single
long-range missile has been identified as Russian.
Since this country is working closely with Great Britain on global defense
problems, it is no violation of security to say that we have probably
exchanged certain guided-missile information. In regard to the British longrange
missile picture outlined to me by John Steele, I can state two major
facts: 1. The British have categorically denied testing such long-range
missiles over American territory, where they might endanger American
citizens. There is convincing evidence that they are telling the truth.
2. There is no British missile now built, or planned, that could explain the
objects seen by Captain Mantell, Chiles and Whitted, and witnesses in
most of the major sightings.
The preceding statement applies equally to American-built missiles. There
is no experimental craft or guided missile even remotely considered in this
country that would begin to approach the dimensions and performance of
the space ships seen in these cases.
There is concrete evidence that the United States is as well advanced as
any other nation in guided-missile development. Certain recent advances
should place us in the lead, unless confidential reports on Soviet progress
are completely wrong.
If American scientists and engineers can learn the source of the space
ships’ power and adapt it to our use, it may well be the means for ending
the threat of war. The Soviet scientists are well aware of this; their research
into cosmic rays and other natural forces has been redoubled since the
flying-saucer reports of 1947.
The secret of the space ships’ power is more important than even the
hydrogen bomb. It may someday be the key to the fate of the world.
AFTER one year’s investigation of the flying saucers and Air Force
operations, I have come to the following conclusions:
1. The Air Force was puzzled, and badly worried when the disks first were
sighted in 1947.
2. The Air Force began to suspect the truth soon after Mantell’s death–
perhaps even before.
3. Project “Saucer” was set up to investigate and at the same time conceal
from the public the truth about the saucers.
4. During the spring of 1949 this policy, which had been strictly maintained
by Forrestal, underwent an abrupt change. On top-level orders, it was
decided to let the facts gradually leak out, in order to prepare the American
5. This was the reason for the April 27, 1949, report, with its suggestions
about space visitors.
6. While I was preparing the article for the January 1950 issue of True, it
had been considered in line with the general education program. But the
unexpected public reaction was mistaken by the Air Force for hysteria,
resulting in their hasty denial that the saucers existed.
7. Because the Air Force feared any closer analysis of the Mantell case,
Major Boggs was instructed to publicize the Venus explanation. Although it
had been denied, the Air Force knew that most people had forgotten this
or had never known it.
8. Major Boggs, having stated this answer publicly (along with the other
Chiles-Whitted and Gorman answers), was forced to stick to it, though he
knew it was wrong and that the case summaries would prove it.
9. The case summaries were released to a small number of Washington
newsmen, to continue planting the space-travel thought; this decision being
made after True’s reception proved to the Air Force that the public was
better prepared than had been thought.
In regard to the flying saucers themselves, I believe that in the majority of
cases, space ships are the answer:
1. The earth has been under periodic observation from another planet, or
other planets, for at least two centuries.
2. This observation suddenly increased in 1947, following, the series of Abomb
explosions begun in 1945.
3. The observation, now intermittent, is part of a long-range survey and will
continue indefinitely. No immediate attempt to contact the earth seems
evident. There may be some unknown block to making contact, but it is
more probable that the spacemen’s plans are not complete.
I believe that the Air Force is still investigating the saucer sightings, either
through the Air Materiel Command or some other headquarters. It is
possible that some Air Force officials still fear a panic when the truth is
officially revealed. In that case, we may continue for a long time to see
routine denials alternating with new suggestions of interplanetary travel.
The education problem is complicated by two imperative needs. We must
try to learn as much as we can about the space ships’ source of power,
and at the same time try to prevent clues to this information from reaching
an enemy on earth,
If censorship is suddenly imposed on all flying-saucer reports, this will be
the chief reason. This would also help solve a minor problem where partial
censorship now exists. A few test missiles launched from a southwest
base have been seen by citizens at a distance from the proving grounds. In
some cases, their reports have got into local papers, though the wire
services did not carry them.
These missile tests are peculiarly different from the general run of flyingsaucer
reports. Contrasted with the Chiles-Whitted, Mantell, and other
space-ship sightings, they stand out with a certain pattern, easy to
recognize. News or radio reports of these tests might accidentally give an
enemy clues to the type, speed, and range of this particular missile, once
he learned the pattern. Periodic censorship, or even a complete blackout
of sighting reports, may be enforced during the next year or so.
For the purposes mentioned, such action would be
justified. But whenever such censorship is lifted, the complete truth about
space visitors should be told at the same time: the full details of all the
major cases, the size of the Godman Field space ship, any attempted
landings or other efforts at contact by interplanetary visitors, and all other
details that now are official secrets.
I also believe that a certain group of disk sightings in this country is linked
with our guided missiles. Official announcements, of course, may be
delayed a long time. With this exception, I believe that Americans should
be told the truth, now.
When the announcement of our guided missiles is made, some Americans
not familiar with the facts may accept it as a full answer. If officials are not
yet ready to reveal the space-travel facts, the Mantell evidence and other
key cases may be deliberately glossed over.
But even if all the evidence–the world-wide sightings, the old records, the
Chiles-Whitted and other cases–
should be completely ignored, Americans cannot escape eventual contact
with dwellers on other planets.
Even though space visitors never attempt contact with us, sooner or later
earthlings will be traveling to distant planets–planets that scientists have
said are almost surely inhabited.
The American people have proved their ability to take incredible things.
We have survived the stunning impact of the Atomic Age. We should be
able to take the Interplanetary Age, when it comes, without hysteria.