The photos turned out to be of the Navy XF-5-U, a World War II experimental aircraft that never flew.
The public was now thoroughly confused.
By now the words "flying saucer" were being batted around by every newspaper reporter, radio and TV newscaster, comedian, and man on the street. Some of the comments weren't complimentary, but as Theorem I of the publicity racket goes, "It doesn't make any difference what's said as long as the name's spelled right."
Early in April the publication that is highly revered by so many, U.S. News and World Report, threw in their lot. The UFO's belonged to the Navy. Up popped the old non flying XF-5-U again.
Events drifted back to normal when Edward R. Murrow made UFO's the subject of one of his TV documentaries. He took his viewers around the U.S., talked to Kenneth Arnold, of original UFO fame, by phone and got the story of Captain Mantell's death from a reporter "who was there." Sandwiched in between accounts of actual UFO sightings were the pro and con opinions of top Washington brass, scientists, and the man on the street.
Even the staid New York Times, which had until now stayed out of UFO controversy, broke down and ran an editorial entitled, "Those Flying Saucers - Are They or Aren't They?"
All of this activity did little to shock the military out of their dogma. They admitted that the UFO investigation really hadn't been discontinued. "Any substantial reports of any unusual aerial phenomena would be processed through normal intelligence channels," they told the press.
Ever since July 4, 1947, ten days after the first flying saucer report, airline pilots had been reporting that they had seen UFO's. But the reports weren't frequent - maybe one every few months. In the spring of 1950 this changed, however, and the airline pilots began to make more and more reports - good reports. The reports went to ATIC but they didn't receive much attention. In a few instances there was a semblance of an investigation but it was halfhearted. The reports reached the newspapers too, and here they received a great deal more attention. The reports were investigated, and the stories checked and rechecked. When airline crews began to turn in one UFO report after another, it was difficult to believe the old "hoax, hallucination, and misidentification of known objects" routine. In April, May, and June of 1950 there were over thirty five good reports from airline crews.
One of these was a report from a Chicago and Southern crew who
78.The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects
were flying a DC-3 from Memphis to Little Rock, Arkansas, on the night of March 31. It was an exceptionally clear night, no clouds or haze, a wonderful night to fly. At exactly nine twenty-nine by the cockpit clock the pilot, a Jack Adams, noticed a white light off to his left. The copilot, G. W. Anderson, was looking at the chart but out of the corner of his eye he saw the pilot lean forward and look out the window, so he looked out too. He saw the light just as the pilot said, "What's that?"
The copilot's answer was classic: "No, not one of those things."
Both pilots had only recently voiced their opinions regarding the flying saucers and they weren't complimentary.
As they watched the UFO, it passed across the nose of their DC-3 and they got a fairly good look at it. Neither the pilot nor the copilot was positive of the object's shape because it was "shadowy" but they assumed it was disk shaped because of the circular arrangement of eight or ten "portholes," each one glowing from a strong bluish white light that seemed to come from the inside of whatever it was that they saw. The UFO also had a blinking white light on top, a fact that led many people to speculate that this UFO was another airliner. But this idea was quashed when it was announced that there were no other airliners in the area. The crew of the DC-3, when questioned on this possibility, were definite in their answers. If it had been another airplane, they could have read the number, seen the passengers, and darn near reached out and slugged the pilot for getting so close to them.
About a month later, over northern Indiana, TWA treated all the passengers of one of their DC-3 flights to a view of a UFO that looked like a "big glob of molten metal."
The official answer for this incident is that the huge orange red UFO was nothing more than the light from the many northern Indiana blast furnaces reflecting a haze layer. Could be, but the pilots say no.
There were similar sightings in North Korea two years later - and FEAF Bomber Command had caused a shortage of blast furnaces in North Korea.
UFO sightings by airline pilots always interested me as much as any type of sighting. Pilots in general should be competent observers simply because they spend a large part of their lives looking around the sky. And pilots do look; one of the first things an aviation cadet is taught is to "Keep your head on a swivel"; in other words, keep looking around the sky. Of all the pilots, the airline pilots are the cream of this group of good observers. Possibly some second lieutenant just out of flying school could be confused by some unusual formation of ground lights, a meteor, or a star, but airline pilots have flown thousands of hours or they
The Presses Roll The Air Force Shrugs.79
wouldn't be sitting in the left seat of an airliner, and they should be familiar with a host of unusual sights.
One afternoon in February 1953 I had an opportunity to further my study of UFO sightings by airline pilots. I had been out at Air Defense Command Headquarters in Colorado Springs and was flying back East on a United Airlines DC-6. There weren't many passengers on the airplane that afternoon but, as usual, the captain came strolling back through the cabin to chat. When he got to me he sat down in the next seat. We talked a few minutes; then I asked him what he knew about flying saucers. He sort of laughed and said that a dozen people a week asked that question, but when I told him who I was and why I was interested, his attitude changed. He said that he'd never seen a UFO but he knew a lot of pilots on United who had. One man, he told me, had seen one several years ago. He'd reported it but he had been sloughed off like the rest. But he was so convinced that he'd seen something unusual that he'd gone out and bought a Leica camera with a 105 mm. telephoto lens, learned how to use it, and now he carried it religiously during his flights.
There was a lull in the conversation, then the captain said, "Do you really want to get an opinion about flying saucers?"
I said I did.
"O.K.," I remember his saying, "how much of a layover do you have in Chicago?"
I had about two hours.
"All right, as soon as we get to Chicago I'll meet you at Caffarello's, across the street from the terminal building. I'll see who else is in and I'll bring them along."
I thanked him and he went back up front.
I waited around the bar at Caffarello's for an hour. I'd just about decided that he wasn't going to make it and that I'd better get back to catch my flight to Dayton when he and three other pilots came in. We got a big booth in the coffee shop because he'd called three more off duty pilots who lived in Chicago and they were coming over too. I don't remember any of the men's names because I didn't make any attempt to. This was just an informal bull session and not an official interrogation, but I really got the scoop on what airline pilots think about UFO's.
First of all they didn't pull any punches about what they thought about the Air Force and its investigation of UFO reports. One of the men got right down to the point: "If I saw a flying saucer flying wing tip formation with me and could see little men waving - even if my
80.The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects
whole load of passengers saw it - I wouldn't report it to the Air Force." Another man cut in, "Remember the thing Jack Adams said he saw down by Memphis?" I said I did.
"He reported that to the Air Force and some red-hot character met him in Memphis on his next trip. He talked to Adams a few minutes and then told him that he'd seen a meteor. Adams felt like a fool. Hell, I know Jack Adams well and he's the most conservative guy I know. If he said he saw something with glowing portholes, he saw something with glowing portholes - and it wasn't a meteor."
Even though I didn't remember the pilots' names I'll never forget their comments. They didn't like the way the Air Force had handled UFO reports and I was the Air Force's "Mr. Flying Saucer." As quickly as one of the pilots would set me up and bat me down, the next one grabbed me off the floor and took his turn. But I couldn't complain too much; I'd asked for it. I think that this group of seven pilots pretty much represented the feelings of a lot of the airline pilots. They weren't wide-eyed space fans, but they and their fellow pilots had seen something and whatever they'd seen weren't hallucinations, mass hysteria, balloons, or meteors.
Three of the men at the Caffarello conference had seen UFO's or, to use their terminology, they had seen something they couldn't identify as a known object. Two of these men had seen odd lights closely following their airplanes at night. Both had checked and double-checked with CAA, but no other aircraft was in the area. Both admitted, however, that they hadn't seen enough to class what they'd seen as good UFO sighting. But the third man had a lulu.
If I recall correctly, this pilot was flying for TWA. One day in March 1952 he, his copilot, and a third person who was either a pilot dead-heading home or another crew member, I don't recall which, were flying a C-54 cargo airplane from Chicago to Kansas City. At about 2:30 P.M. the pilot was checking in with the CAA radio at Kirksville, Missouri, flying 500 feet on top of a solid overcast. While he was talking he glanced out at his No.2 engine, which had been losing oil. Directly in line with it, and a few degrees above, he saw a silvery, disk shaped object. It was too far out to get a really good look at it, yet it was close enough to be able definitely to make out the shape.
The UFO held its relative position with the C-54 for five or six minutes; then the pilot decided to do a little on-the-spot investigating himself. He started a gradual turn toward the UFO and for about thirty seconds he was getting closer, but then the UFO began to make a left turn. It had apparently slowed down because they were still closing on it.
The Presses Roll The Air Force Shrugs.81
About this time the copilot decided that the UFO was a balloon; it just looked as if the UFO was turning. The pilot agreed halfway - and since the company wasn't paying them to intercept balloons, they got back on their course to Kansas City. They flew on for a few more minutes with "the darn thing" still off to their left. If it was a balloon, they should be leaving it behind, the pilot recalled thinking to himself; if they made a 45 degree right turn, the "balloon" shouldn't stay off the left wing; it should drop way behind. So they made a 45 degree right turn, and although the "balloon" dropped back a little bit, it didn't drop back far enough to be a balloon. It seemed to put on speed to try to make a turn outside of the C-54's turn. The pilot continued on around until he'd made a tight 360 degree turn, and the UFO had followed, staying outside. They could not judge its speed, not knowing how far away it was, but to follow even a C-54 around in a 360 degree turn and to stay outside all of the time takes a mighty speedy object.
This shot the balloon theory right in the head. After the 360 degree turn the UFO seemed to be gradually losing altitude because it was getting below the level of the wings. The pilot decided to get a better look. He asked for full power on all four engines, climbed several thousand feet, and again turned into the UFO. He put the C-54 in a long glide, headed directly toward it. As they closed in, the UFO seemed to lose altitude a little faster and "sank" into the top of the overcast. Just as the C-54 flashed across the spot where the UFO had disappeared, the crew saw it rise up out of the overcast off their right wing and begin to climb so fast that in several seconds it was out of sight.
Both the pilot and copilot wanted to stay around and look for it but No.2 engine had started to act up soon after they had put on full power for the climb, and they decided that they'd better get into Kansas City.
I missed my Dayton flight but I heard a good UFO story.
What had the two pilots and their passenger seen? We kicked it around plenty that afternoon. It was no balloon. It wasn't another airplane because when the pilot called Kirksville Radio he'd asked if there were any airplanes in the area. It might possibly have been a reflection of some kind except that when it "sank" into the overcast the pilot said it looked like something sinking into an overcast - it just didn't disappear as a reflection would. Then there was the sudden reappearance off the right wing. These are the types of things you just can't explain.
What did the pilots think it was? Three were sold that the UFO's were interplanetary spacecraft, one man was convinced that they were some U.S. "secret weapon," and three of the men just shook their heads. So did I. We all agreed on one thing - this pilot had seen something and it was something highly unusual.
82.The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects
The meeting broke up about 9:00 P.M. I'd gotten the personal and very candid opinion of seven airline captains, and the opinions of half a hundred more airline pilots had been quoted. I'd learned that the UFO's are discussed often. I'd learned that many airline pilots take UFO sightings very seriously. I learned that some believe they are interplanetary, some think they're a U.S. weapon, and many just don't know. But very few are laughing off the good sightings.
By May 1950 the flying saucer business had hit a new all-time peak. The Air Force didn't take any side, they just shrugged. There was no attempt to investigate and explain the various sightings. Maybe this was because someone was afraid the answer would be "Unknown." Or maybe it was because a few key officers thought that the eagles or stars on their shoulders made them leaders of all men. If they didn't believe in flying saucers and said so, it would be like calming the stormy Sea of Galilee. "It's all a bunch of damned nonsense," an Air Force colonel who was controlling the UFO investigation said. "There's no such thing as a flying saucer." He went on to say that all people who saw flying saucers were jokers, crackpots, or publicity hounds. Then he gave the airline pilots who'd been reporting UFO's a reprieve. "They were just fatigued," he said. "What they thought were spaceships were windshield reflections."
This was the unbiased processing of UFO reports through normal intelligence channels.
But the U.S. public evidently had more faith in the "crackpot" scientists who were spending millions of the public's dollars at the White Sands Proving Grounds, in the "publicity mad" military pilots, and the "tired, old" airline pilots, because in a nationwide poll it was found that only 6 per cent of the country's 150,697,361 people agreed with the colonel and said, "There aren't such things."
Ninety-four per cent had different ideas.
The Pentagon Rumbles
On June 25, 1950, the North Korean armies swept down across the 38th parallel and the Korean War was on - the UFO was no longer a news item. But the lady, or gentleman, who first said, "Out of sight is out of mind," had never reckoned with the UFO.
The Pentagon Rumbles.83
On September 8, 1950, the UFO's were back in the news. On that day it was revealed, via a book entitled Behind the Flying Saucers, that government scientists had recovered and analyzed three different models of flying saucers. And they were fantastic - just like the book. They were made of an unknown super-duper metal and they were manned by little blue uniformed men who ate concentrated food and drank heavy water. The author of the book, Frank Scully, had gotten the story directly from a millionaire oilman, Silas Newton. Newton had in turn heard the story from an employee of his, a mysterious "Dr. Gee," one of the government scientists who had helped analyze the crashed saucers.
The story made news, Newton and "Dr. Gee" made fame, and Scully made money.
A little over two years later Newton and the man who was reportedly the mysterious "Dr. Gee" again made the news. The Denver district attorney's office had looked into the pair's oil business and found that the pockets they were trying to tap didn't contain oil. According to the December 6, 1952, issue of the Saturday Review, the D.A. had charged the two men with a $50,000 con game. One of their $800,000 electronic devices for their oil explorations turned out to be a $4.00 piece of war surplus junk.
Another book came out in the fall of 1950 when Donald Keyhoe expanded his original UFO story that had first appeared in the January 1950 issue of True magazine. Next to Scully's book Keyhoe's book was tame, but it convinced more people. Keyhoe had based his conjecture on fact, and his facts were correct, even if the conjecture wasn't.
Neither the seesaw advances and retreats of the United Nations troops in Korea nor the two flying saucer books seemed to have any effect on the number of UFO reports logged into ATIC, however. By official count, seventy-seven came in the first half of 1950 and seventy-five during the latter half. The actual count could have been more because in 1950, UFO reports were about as popular as sand in spinach, and I would guess that at least a few wound up in the "circular file."
In early January 1951 I was recalled to active duty and assigned to Air Technical Intelligence Center as an intelligence officer. I had been at ATIC only eight and a half hours when I first heard the words "flying saucer" officially used. I had never paid a great deal of attention to flying saucer reports but I had read a few, especially those that had been made by pilots. I'd managed to collect some 2,000 hours of flying time and had seen many odd things in the air, but I'd always been able to figure out what they were in a few seconds. I was convinced that if a pilot, or any crew member of an airplane, said that he'd seen some-
84.The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects
thing that he couldn't identify he meant it - it wasn't a hallucination. But I wasn't convinced that flying saucers were spaceships.
My interest in UFO's picked up in a hurry when I learned that ATIC was the government agency that was responsible for the UFO project. And I was really impressed when I found out that the person who sat three desks down and one over from mine was in charge of the whole UFO show. So when I came to work on my second morning at ATIC and heard the words "flying saucer report" being talked about and saw a group of people standing around the chief of the UFO project's desk I about sprung an eardrum listening to what they had to say. It seemed to be a big deal, except that most of them were laughing. It must be a report of hoax or hallucination, I remember thinking to myself, but I listened as one of the group told the others about the report.
The night before a Mid Continent Airlines DC-3 was taxiing out to take off from the airport at Sioux City, Iowa, when the airport control tower operators noticed a bright bluish white light in the west. The tower operators, thinking that it was another airplane, called the pilot of the DC-3 and told him to be careful since there was another airplane approaching the field. As the DC-3 lined up to take off, both the pilots of the airliner and the tower operators saw the light moving in, but since it was still some distance away the DC-3 was given permission to take off. As it rolled down the runway getting up speed, both the pilot and the copilot were busy, so they didn't see the light approaching. But the tower operators did, and as soon as the DC-3 was airborne, they called and told the pilot to be careful. The copilot said that he saw the light and was watching it. Just then the tower got a call from another airplane that was requesting landing instructions and the operators looked away from the light.
In the DC-3 the pilot and copilot had also looked away from the light for a few seconds. When they looked back, the bluish white light had apparently closed in because it was much brighter and it was dead ahead. In a split second it closed in and flashed by their right wing, so close that both pilots thought that they would collide with it. When it passed the DC-3, the pilots saw more than a light - they saw a huge object that looked like the "fuselage of a B-29."
When the copilot had recovered he looked out his side window to see if he could see the UFO and there it was, flying formation with them. He yelled at the pilot, who leaned over and looked just in time to see the UFO disappear.
The second look confirmed the Mid Continent crew's first impression -
The Pentagon Rumbles.85
the object looked like a B-29 without wings. They saw nothing more, only a big "shadowy shape" and the bluish-white light - no windows, no exhaust.
The tower had missed the incident because they were landing the other airplane and the pilot and the copilot didn't have time to call them and tell them about what was going on. All the tower operators could say was that seconds after the UFO had disappeared the light that they had seen was gone.
When the airliner landed in Omaha, the crew filed a report that was forwarded to the Air Force. But this wasn't the only report that was filed; a full colonel from military intelligence had been a passenger on the DC-3. He'd seen the UFO too, and he was mighty impressed.
I thought that this was an interesting report and I wondered what the official reaction would be. The official reaction was a great big, deep belly laugh.
This puzzled me because I'd read that the Air Force was seriously investigating all UFO reports.
I continued to eavesdrop on the discussions about the report all day since the UFO expert was about to "investigate" the incident. He sent out a wire to Flight Service and found that there was a B-36 somewhere in the area of Sioux City at the time of the sighting, and from what I could gather he was trying to blame the sighting on the B-36. When Washington called to get the results of the analysis of the sighting, they must have gotten the B-36 treatment because the case was closed.
I'd only been at ATIC two days and I certainly didn't class myself as an intelligence expert, but it didn't take an expert to see that a B-36, even one piloted by an experienced idiot, could not do what the UFO had done - buzz a DC-3 that was in an airport traffic pattern.
I didn't know it at the time but a similar event had occurred the year before.
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