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Edward J Ruppelt "The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects"

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The mysterious blue lights in the area turned out to be a farmer arc- welding at night. The other flying saucers were the landing lights of air- planes landing at a nearby airport.

To be very honest, we were trying to prove that this was a hoax, but were having absolutely no success. Every new lead we dug up pointed to the same thing, a true story.

We finished our work on a Friday night and planned to leave early Saturday morning. Bob Olsson and I planned to fly back on a commercial airliner, as the B-25 was grounded for maintenance. Just after dinner that night I got a call from the sheriff's office. It was from a deputy I had talked to, not the one who met the scoutmaster coming out of the woods, but another one, who had been very interested in the incident. He had been doing a little independent checking and found that our singed UFO observer's background was not as clean as he led one to believe. He had been booted out of the Marines after a few months for being AWOL and stealing an automobile, and had spent some time in a federal reformatory in Chillicothe, Ohio. The deputy pointed out that this fact alone meant nothing but that he thought I might be interested in it. I agreed.

The next morning, early, I was awakened by a phone call from the intelligence officer. The morning paper carried the UFO story on the front page. It quoted the scoutmaster as saying that "high brass" from Washington had questioned him late into the night. There was no "high brass," just four captains, a second lieutenant, and a sergeant. He knew we were from Dayton because we had discussed who we were and where we were stationed. The newspaper story went on to say that "he, the scout master, and the Air Force knew what he'd seen but he couldn't tell - it would create a national panic." He'd also hired a press agent. I could understand the "high brass from the Pentagon" as literary license by the press, but this "national panic" pitch was too much. I had just about decided to give up on this incident and write it off as "Unknown" until this happened. From all appearances, our scoutmaster was going to make a fast buck on his experience. Just before leaving for Dayton, I called

Hoax or Horror?183

Major Dewey Fournet in the Pentagon and asked him to do some checking.

Monday morning the machete went to the materials lab at Wright- Patterson. The question we asked was, "Is there anything unusual about this machete? Is it magnetized? Is it radioactive? Has it been heated?" No knife was ever tested so thoroughly for so many things. As in using a Geiger counter to check the area over which the UFO had hovered in the Florida woods, our idea was to investigate every possible aspect of the sighting. They found nothing, just a plain, unmagnetized, unradioactive, unheated, common, everyday knife.

The cap was sent to a laboratory in Washington, D.C., along with the scoutmaster's story. Our question here was, "Does the cap in any way (burns, chemicals, etc.) substantiate or refute the story?"

I thought that we'd collected all the items that could be analyzed in a lab until somebody thought of one I'd missed, the most obvious of them all - soil and grass samples from under the spot where the UFO had hovered. We'd had samples, but in the last minute rush to get back to Dayton they had been left in Florida. I called Florida and they were shipped to Dayton and turned over to an agronomy lab for analysis.

By the end of the week I received a report on our ex-Marine's military and reformatory records. They confirmed a few suspicions and added new facts. They were not complimentary. The discrepancy between what we'd heard about the scoutmaster while we were in Florida and the records was considered a major factor. I decided that we should go back to Florida and try to resolve this discrepancy.

Since it was hurricane season, we had to wait a few days, then sneak back between two hurricanes. We contacted a dozen people in the city where the scoutmaster lived. All of them had known him for some time. We traced him from his early boyhood to the time of the sighting. To be sure that the people we talked to were reliable, we checked on them. The specific things we found out cannot be told since they were given to us in confidence, but we were convinced that the whole incident was a hoax.

We didn't talk to the scoutmaster again but we did talk to all the boy scouts one night at their scout meeting, and they retold how they had seen their scoutmaster knocked down by the ball of fire. The night before, we had gone out to the area of the sighting and, under approximately the same lighting conditions as existed on the night of the sighting, had re-enacted the scene - especially the part where the boy scouts saw their scoutmaster fall, covered with red fire. We found that not even by standing on top of the car could you see a person silhouetted in the clearing where the scoutmaster supposedly fell. The rest of their stories fell apart

184.The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects

to some extent too. They were not as positive of details as they had been previously.

When we returned to Dayton, the report on the cap had come back. The pattern of the scorch showed that the hat was flat when it was scorched, but the burned holes - the lab found some minute holes we had missed - had very probably been made by an electrical spark. This was all the lab could find.

During our previous visit we repeatedly asked the question, "Was the hat burned before you went into the woods?" and, "Had the cap been ironed?" We had received the same answers each time: "The hat was not burned because we [the boy scouts] were playing with it at the scout meeting and would have noticed the burns," and, "The cap was new; it had not been washed or ironed." It is rumored that the cap was never returned because it was proof of the authenticity of the sighting. The hat wasn't returned simply because the scoutmaster said that he didn't want it back. No secrets, no intrigue; it's as simple as that.

Everyone who was familiar with the incident, except a few people in the Pentagon, were convinced that this was a hoax until the lab called me about the grass samples we'd sent in. "How did the roots get charred?" Roots charred? I didn't even know what my caller was talking about. He explained that when they'd examined the grass they had knocked the dirt and sand off the roots of the grass clumps and found them charred. The blades of grass themselves were not damaged; they had never been heated, except on the extreme tips of the longer blades. These had evidently been bending over touching the ground and were also charred. The lab had duplicated the charring and had found that by placing live grass clumps in a pan of sand and dirt and heating it to about 300 degrees F. over a gas burner the charring could be duplicated. How it was actually done outside the lab they couldn't even guess.

As soon as we got the lab report, we checked a few possibilities ourselves. There were no hot underground springs to heat the earth, no chemicals in the soil, not a thing we found could explain it. The only way it could have been faked would have been to heat the earth from underneath to 300 degrees F., and how do you do this without using big and cumbersome equipment and disturbing the ground? You can't. Only a few people handled the grass specimens: the lab, the intelligence officer in Florida, and I. The lab wouldn't do it as a joke, then write an official report, and I didn't do it. This leaves the intelligence officer; I'm positive that he wouldn't do it. There may be a single answer everyone is over looking, but as of now the charred grass roots from Florida are still a mystery.

Hoax or Horror?185

Writing an official report on this incident was difficult. On one side of the ledger was a huge mass of circumstantial evidence very heavily weighted against the scoutmaster's story being true. On our second trip to Florida, Lieutenant Olsson and I heard story after story about the man's aptitude for dreaming up tall tales. One man told us, "If he told me the sun was shining, I'd look up to make sure." There were parts of his story and those of the boy scouts that didn't quite mesh. None of us ever believed the boy scouts were in on the hoax. They were undoubtedly so impressed by the story that they imagined a few things they didn't actually see. The scoutmaster's burns weren't proof of anything; the flight surgeon had duplicated these by burning his own arm with a cigarette lighter. But we didn't make step one in proving the incident to be a hoax. We thought up dozens of ways that the man could have set up the hoax but couldn't prove one.

In the scoutmaster's favor were the two pieces of physical evidence we couldn't explain, the holes burned in the cap and the charred grass roots.

The deputy sheriff who had first told me about the scoutmaster's Marine and prison record had also said, "Maybe this is the one time in his life he's telling the truth, but I doubt it."

So did we; we wrote off the incident as a hoax. The best hoax in UFO history.

Many people have asked why we didn't give the scoutmaster a lie detector test. We seriously considered it and consulted some experts in this field. They advised against it. In some definite types of cases the lie detector will not give valid results. This, they thought, was one of those cases. Had we done it and had he passed on the faulty results, the publicity would have been a headache.

There is one way to explain the charred grass roots, the burned cap, and a few other aspects of the incident. It's pure speculation; I don't believe that it is the answer, yet it is interesting. Since the blades of the grass were not damaged and the ground had not been disturbed, this one way is the only way (nobody has thought of any other way) the soil could have been heated. It could have been done by induction heating.

To quote from a section entitled "Induction Heating" from an electrical engineering textbook:

A rod of solid metal or any electrical conductor, when subjected to an alternating magnetic field, has electromotive forces set up in it. These electromotive forces cause what are known as "eddy currents." A rise in temperature results from "eddy currents."

Induction heating is a common method of melting metals in a foundry.

Replace the "rod of solid metal" mentioned above with damp sand, an

186.The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects

electrical conductor, and assume that a something that was generating a powerful alternating magnetic field was hovering over the ground, and you can explain how the grass roots were charred. To get an alternating magnetic field, some type of electrical equipment was needed. Electricity - electrical sparks - the holes burned in the cap "by electric sparks."

UFO propulsion comes into the picture when one remembers Dr. Einstein's unified field theory, concerning the relationship between electromagnetism and gravitation.

If this alternating magnetic field can heat metal, why didn't everything the scoutmaster had that was metal get hot enough to burn him? He had a flashlight, machete, coins in his pocket, etc. The answer - he wasn't under the UFO for more than a few seconds. He said that when he stopped to really look at it he had backed away from under it. He did feel some heat, possibly radiating from the ground.

To further pursue this line of speculation, the scoutmaster repeatedly mentioned the unusual odor near the UFO. He described it as being "sharp" or "pungent." Ozone gas is "sharp" or "pungent." To quote from a chemistry book, "Ozone is prepared by passing air between two plates which are charged at a high electrical potential." Electrical equipment again. Breathing too high a concentration of ozone gas will also cause you to lose consciousness.

I used to try out this induction heating theory on people to get their reaction. I tried it out one day on a scientist from Rand. He practically leaped at the idea. I laughed when I explained that I thought this theory just happened to tie together the unanswered aspects of the incident in Florida and was not the answer; he was slightly perturbed. "What do you want?" he said. "Does a UFO have to come in and land on your desk at ATIC?"


Digesting the Data

It was soon after we had written a finish to the Case of the Scoutmaster that I went into Washington to give another briefing on the latest UFO developments. Several reports had come in during early August that had been read with a good deal of interest in the military and other govern-

187. Digesting the Data

mental agencies. By late August 1952 several groups in Washington were following the UFO situation very closely.

The sighting that had stirred everyone up came from Haneda AFB, now Tokyo International Airport, in Japan. Since the sighting came from outside the U.S., we couldn't go out and investigate it, but the intelligence officers in the Far East Air Force had done a good job, so we had the complete story of this startling account of an encounter with a UFO. Only a few minor questions had been unanswered, and a quick wire to FEAF brought back these missing data. Normally it took up to three months to get routine questions back and forth, but this time the exchange of wires took only a matter of hours.

Several months after the sighting I talked to one of the FEAF intelligence officers who had investigated it, and in his estimation it was one of the best to come out of the Far East.

The first people to see the UFO were two control tower operators who were walking across the ramp at the air base heading toward the tower to start the midnight shift. They were about a half hour early so they weren't in any big hurry to get up into the tower - at least not until they saw a large brilliant light off to the northeast over Tokyo Bay. They stopped to look at the light for a few seconds thinking that it might be an exceptionally brilliant star, but both men had spent many lonely nights in a control tower when they had nothing to look at except stars and they had never seen anything like this bright before. Besides, the light was moving. The two men had lined it up with the corner of a hangar and could see that it was continually moving closer and drifting a little off to the right.

In a minute they had run across the ramp, up the several hundred steps to the tower, and were looking at the light through 7x50 binoculars. Both of the men, and the two tower operators whom they were relieving, got a good look at the UFO. The light was circular in shape and had a constant brilliance. It appeared to be the upper portion of a large, round, dark shape which was about four times the diameter of the light itself. As they watched, the UFO moved in closer, or at least it appeared to be getting closer because it became more distinct. When it moved in, the men could see a second and dimmer light on the lower edge of the dark, shadowy portion.

In a few minutes the UFO had moved off to the east, getting dimmer and dimmer as it disappeared. The four tower men kept watching the eastern sky, and suddenly the light began to reappear. It stayed in sight a few seconds, was gone again, and then for the third time it came back, heading toward the air base.

This time one of the tower operators picked up a microphone, called

188.The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects

the pilot of a C-54 that was crossing Tokyo Bay, and asked if he could see the light. The pilot didn't see anything unusual.

At 11:45 P.M., according to the logbook in the tower, one of the operators called a nearby radar site and asked if they had an unidentified target on their scopes. They did.

The FEAF intelligence officers who investigated the sighting made a special effort to try to find out if the radar's unidentified target and the light were the same object. They deduced that they were since, when the tower operators and the radar operators compared notes over the telephone, the light and the radar target were in the same location and were moving in the same direction.

For about five minutes the radar tracked the UFO as it cut back and forth across the central part of Tokyo Bay, sometimes traveling so slowly that it almost hovered and then speeding up to 300 miles an hour. All of this time the tower operators were watching the light through binoculars. Several times when the UFO approached the radar station - once it came within 10 miles - a radar operator went outside to find out if he could see the light but no one at the radar site ever saw it. Back at the air base the tower operators had called other people and they saw the light. Later on the tower man said that he had the distinct feeling that the light was highly directional, like a spotlight.

Some of the people who were watching thought that the UFO might be a lighted balloon; so, for the sake of comparison, a lighted weather balloon was released. But the light on the balloon was much more "yellowish" than the UFO and in a matter of seconds it had traveled far enough away that the light was no longer visible. This gave the observers a chance to compare the size of the balloon and the size of the dark, shadowy part of the UFO. Had the UFO been 10 miles away it would have been 50 feet in diameter.

Three minutes after midnight an F-94 scrambled from nearby Johnson AFB came into the area. The ground controller sent the F-94 south of Yokohama, up Tokyo Bay, and brought him in "behind" the UFO. The second that the ground controller had the F-94 pilot lined up and told him that he was in line for a radar run, the radar operator in the rear seat of the F-94 called out that he had a lock-on. His target was at 6,000 yards, 10 degrees to the right and 10 degrees below the F-94. The lockon was held for ninety seconds as the ground controller watched both the UFO and the F-94 make a turn and come toward the ground radar site. Just as the target entered the "ground clutter" - the permanent and solid target near the radar station caused by the radar beam's striking the ground - the lock-on was broken. The target seemed to pull away swiftly from the jet

189. Digesting the Data

interceptor. At almost this exact instant the tower operators reported that they had lost visual contact with the UFO. The tower called the F-94 and asked if they had seen anything visually during the chase - they hadn't. The F-94 crew stayed in the area ten or fifteen more minutes but couldn't see anything or pick up any more targets on their radar.

Soon after the F-94 left the area, both the ground radar and the tower operators picked up the UFO again. In about two minutes radar called the tower to say that their target had just "broken into three pieces" and that the three "pieces," spaced about a quarter of a mile apart, were leaving the area, going northeast. Seconds later tower operators lost sight of the light.

The FEAF intelligence officers had checked every possible angle but they could offer nothing to account for the sighting.

There were lots of opinions, weather targets for example, but once again the chances of a weather target's being in exactly the same direction as a bright star and having the star appear to move with the false radar target aren't too likely - to say the least. And then the same type of thing had happened twice before inside of a month's time, once in California and once in Michigan.

As one of the men at the briefing I gave said, "It's incredible, and I can't believe it, but those boys in FEAF are in a war - they're veterans - and by damn, I think they know what they're talking about when they say they've never seen anything like this before."

I could go into a long discourse on the possible explanations for this sighting; I heard many, but in the end there would be only one positive answer - the UFO could not be identified as something we knew about. It could have been an interplanetary spaceship. Many people thought this was the answer and were all for sticking their necks out and establishing a category of conclusions for UFO reports and labeling it spacecraft. But the majority ruled, and a UFO remained an unidentified flying object.

On my next trip to the Pentagon I spent the whole day talking to Major Dewey Fournet and two of his bosses, Colonel W. A. Adams and Colonel Weldon Smith, about the UFO subject in general. One of the things we talked about was a new approach to the UFO problem - that of trying to prove that the motion of a UFO as it flew through the air was intelligently controlled.

I don't know who would get credit for originating the idea of trying to analyze the motion of the UFO's. It was one of those kinds of ideas that are passed around, with everyone adding a few modifications. We'd been talking about making a study of this idea for a long time, but we hadn't had many reports to work with; but now, with the mass of data that we

190.The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects

had accumulated in June and July and August, the prospects of such a study looked promising.

The basic aim of the study would be to learn whether the motion of the reported UFO's was random or ordered. Random motion is an unordered, helter-skelter motion very similar to a swarm of gnats or flies milling around. There is no apparent pattern or purpose to their flight paths. But take, for example, swallows flying around a chimney - they wheel, dart, and dip, but if you watch them closely, they have a definite pattern in their movements - an ordered motion. The definite pattern is intelligently controlled because they are catching bugs or getting in line to go down the chimney.

By the fall of 1952 we had a considerable number of well documented reports in which the UFO's made a series of maneuvers. If we could prove that these maneuvers were not random, but ordered, it would be proof that the UFO's were things that were intelligently controlled.

During our discussion Major Fournet brought up two reports in which the UFO seemed to know what it was doing and wasn't just aimlessly darting around. One of these was the recent sighting from Haneda AFB, Japan, and the other was the incident that happened on the night of July 29, when an F-94 attempted to intercept a UFO over eastern Michigan. In both cases radar had established the track of the UFO.

In the Haneda Incident, according to the sketch of the UFO's track, each turn the UFO made was constant and the straight "legs" between the turns were about the same length. The sketch of the UFO's flight path as it moved back and forth over Tokyo Bay reminded me very much of the "crisscross" search patterns we used to fly during World War II when we were searching for the crew of a ditched airplane. The only time the UFO seriously deviated from this pattern was when the F-94 got on its tail.

The Michigan sighting was even better, however. In this case there was a definite reason for every move that the UFO made. It made a 180 degree turn because the F-94 was closing on it head on. It alternately increased and decreased its speed, but every time it did this it was because the F-94 was closing in and it evidently put on speed to pull out ahead far enough to get out of range of the F-94's radar. To say that this motion was random and that it was just a coincidence that the UFO made the 180 degree turn when the F-94 closed in head on and that it was just a coincidence that the UFO speeded up every time the F-94 began to get within radar range is pushing the chance of coincidence pretty hard.

The idea of the motion analysis study sounded interesting to me, but we were so busy on Project Blue Book we didn't have time to do it. So

191. Digesting the Data

Major Fournet offered to look into it further and I promised him all the help we could give him.

In the meantime my people in Project Blue Book were contacting various scientists in the U.S., and indirectly in Europe, telling them about our data, and collecting opinions. We did this in two ways.

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Not all scientists were in agreement. According to Ruppelt, some of the scientists who sat in on the UFO hearing as spectators, felt that the panel was definitely prejudiced – “afraid to stick their necks out.” 


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