He checked off two shades of green; one a pale, almost yellowish green and the other a much more distinct vivid green. He pointed to the bright green and told me that this was the color of the green fireballs. He'd taken this chart with him when he went out to talk to people who had seen the green fireballs and everyone had picked this one color. The pale green, he explained, was the color reported in the cases of documented green meteors.
Then there were other points of dissimilarity between a meteor and the green fireballs. The trajectory of the fireballs was too flat. Dr. La Paz
Green Fireballs, Project Twinkle, Little Lights, and Grudge.55
explained that a meteor doesn't necessarily have to arch down across the sky, its trajectory can appear to be flat, but not as flat as that of the green fireballs. Then there was the size. Almost always such descriptive words as "terrifying," "as big as the moon," and "blinding" had been used to describe the fireballs. Meteors just aren't this big and bright.
No ---Dr. La Paz didn't think that they were meteors.
Dr. La Paz didn't believe that they were meteorites either.
A meteorite is accompanied by sound and shock waves that break windows and stampede cattle. Yet in every case of a green fireball sighting the observers reported that they did not hear any sound.
But the biggest mystery of all was the fact that no particles of a green fireball had ever been found. If they were meteorites, Dr. La Paz was positive that he would have found one. He'd missed very few times in the cases of known meteorites. He pulled a map out of his file to show me what he meant. It was a map that he had used to plot the spot where a meteorite had hit the earth. I believe it was in Kansas. The map had been prepared from information he had obtained from dozens of people who had seen the meteorite come flaming toward the earth. At each spot where an observer was standing he'd drawn in the observer's line of sight to the meteorite. From the dozens of observers he had obtained dozens of lines of sight. The lines all converged to give Dr. La Paz a plot of the meteorite's downward trajectory. Then he had been able to plot the spot where it had struck the earth. He and his crew went to the marked area, probed the ground with long steel poles, and found the meteorite.
Of all the successful expeditions in his file this was just one case that he showed me. He had records of many more similar expeditions.
Then he showed me some other maps. The plotted lines looked identical to the ones on the map I'd just seen. Dr. La Paz had used the same techniques on these plots and had marked an area where he wanted to search. He had searched the area many times but he had never found anything.
These were plots of the path of a green fireball.
When Dr. La Paz had finished, I had one last question, "What do you think they are?"
He weighed the question for a few seconds then he said that all he cared to say was that he didn't think that they were a natural phenomenon. He thought that maybe someday one would hit the earth and the mystery would be solved. He hoped that they were a natural phenomenon.
After my talk with Dr. La Paz I can well understand his apparent calmness on the night of September 18, 1954, when the newspaper reporter called him to find out if he planned to investigate this latest green fireball
56.The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects
report. He was speaking from experience, not indifference, when he said, "But I don't expect to find anything."
If the green fireballs are back, I hope that Dr. La Paz gets an answer this time.
The story of the UFO now goes back to late January 1949, the time when the Air Force was in the midst of the green fireball mystery. In another part of the country another odd series of events was taking place. The center of activity was a highly secret area that can't be named, and the recipient of the UFO's, which were formations of little lights, was the U.S. Army.
The series of incidents started when military patrols who were protecting the area began to report seeing formations of lights flying through the night sky. At first the lights were reported every three or four nights, but inside of two weeks the frequency had stepped up. Before long they were a nightly occurrence. Some patrols reported that they had seen three or four formations in one night. The sightings weren't restricted to the men on patrol. One night, just at dusk, during retreat, the entire garrison watched a formation pass directly over the post parade ground.
As usual with UFO reports, the descriptions of the lights varied but the majority of the observers reported a V formation of three lights. As the formation moved through the sky, the lights changed in color from a bluish white to orange and back to bluish white. This color cycle took about two seconds. The lights usually traveled from west to east and made no sound. They didn't streak across the sky like a meteor, but they were "going faster than a jet." The lights were "a little bigger than the biggest star." Once in a while the GI's would get binoculars on them but they couldn't see any more details. The lights just looked bigger.
From the time of the first sighting, reports of the little lights were being sent to the Air Force through Army Intelligence channels. The reports were getting to ATIC, but the green fireball activity was taking top billing and no comments went back to the Army about their little lights. According to an Army G-2 major to whom I talked in the Pentagon, this silence was taken to mean that no action, other than sending in reports, was necessary on the part of the Army.
But after about two weeks of nightly sightings and no apparent action by the Air Force, the commander of the installation decided to take the initiative and set a trap. His staff worked out a plan in record time. Special UFO patrols would be sent out into the security area and they would be furnished with sighting equipment. This could be the equipment that they normally used for fire control. Each patrol would be sent to a specific location and would set up a command post. Operating out of the command
Green Fireballs, Project Twinkle, Little Lights, and Grudge.57
post, at points where the sky could be observed, would be sighting teams. Each team had sighting equipment to measure the elevation and azimuth angle of the UFO. Four men were to be on each team, an instrument man, a timer, a recorder, and a radio operator. All the UFO patrols would be assigned special radio frequencies.
The operating procedure would be that when one sighting team spotted a UFO the radio operator would call out his team's location, the location of the UFO in the sky, and the direction it was going. All of the other teams from his patrol would thus know when to look for the UFO and begin to sight on it. While the radio man was reporting, the instrument man on the team would line up the UFO and begin to call out the angles of elevation and azimuth. The timer would call out the time; the recorder would write all of this down. The command post, upon hearing the report of the UFO, would call the next patrol and tell them. They too would try to pick it up.
Here was an excellent opportunity to get some concrete data on at least one type of UFO. It was something that should have been done from the start. Speeds, altitudes, and sizes that are estimated just by looking at a UFO are miserably inaccurate. But if you could accurately establish that some type of object was traveling 30,000 miles an hour, even 3,000 miles an hour - through our atmosphere, the UFO story would be the biggest story since the Creation.
The plan seemed foolproof and had the full support of every man who was to participate. For the first time in history every GI wanted to get on the patrols. The plan was quickly written up as a field order, approved, and mimeographed. Since the Air Force had the prime responsibility for the UFO investigation, it was decided that the plan should be quickly coordinated with the Air Force, so a copy was rushed to them. Time was critical because every group of nightly reports might be the last. Everything was ready to roll the minute the Air Force said "Go."
The Air Force didn't O.K. the plan. I don't know where the plan was killed, or who killed it, but it was killed. Its death caused two reactions.
Many people thought that the plan was killed so that too many people wouldn't find out the truth about UFO's. Others thought somebody was just plain stupid. Neither was true. The answer was simply that the official attitude toward UFO's had drastically changed in the past few months. They didn't exist, they couldn't exist. It was the belief at ATIC that the one last mystery, the green fireballs, had been solved a few days before at Los Alamos. The fireballs were meteors and Project Twinkle would prove it. Any further investigation by the Army would be a waste of time and effort.
58. The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects
This drastic change in official attitude is as difficult to explain as it was difficult for many people who knew what was going on inside Project Sign to believe. I use the words "official attitude" because at this time UFO's had become as controversial a subject as they are today. All through intelligence circles people had chosen sides and the two UFO factions that exist today were born.
On one side was the faction that still believed in flying saucers. These people, come hell or high water, were hanging on to their original ideas. Some thought that the UFO's were interplanetary spaceships. Others weren't quite as bold and just believed that a good deal more should be known about the UFO's before they were so completely written off. These people weren't a bunch of nuts or crackpots either. They ranged down through the ranks from generals and top grade civilians. On the outside their views were backed up by civilian scientists.
On the other side were those who didn't believe in flying saucers. At one time many of them had been believers. When the UFO reports were pouring in back in 1947 and 1948, they were just as sure that the UFO's were real as the people they were now scoffing at. But they had changed their minds. Some of them had changed their minds because they had seriously studied the UFO reports and just couldn't see any evidence that the UFO's were real. But many of them could see the "I don't believe" band wagon pulling out in front and just jumped on.
This change in the operating policy of the UFO project was so pronounced that I, like so many other people, wondered if there was a hidden reason for the change. Was it actually an attempt to go underground - to make the project more secretive? Was it an effort to cover up the fact that UFO's were proven to be interplanetary and that this should be withheld from the public at all cost to prevent a mass panic? The UFO files are full of references to the near mass panic of October 30, 1938, when Orson Welles presented his now famous "The War of the Worlds" broadcast.
This period of "mind changing" bothered me. Here were people deciding that there was nothing to this UFO business right at a time when the reports seemed to be getting better. From what I could see, if there was any mind changing to be done it should have been the other way, skeptics should have been changing to believers.
Maybe I was just playing the front man to a big cover-up. I didn't like it because if somebody up above me knew that UFO's were really space craft, I could make a big fool out of myself if the truth came out. I checked into this thoroughly. I spent a lot of time talking to people who had worked on Project Grudge.
The Dark Ages.59
The anti saucer faction was born because of an old psychological trait, people don't like to be losers. To be a loser makes one feel inferior and incompetent. On September 23, 1947, when the chief of ATIC sent a letter to the Commanding General of the Army Air Forces stating that UFO's were real, intelligence committed themselves. They had to prove it. They tried for a year and a half with no success. Officers on top began to get anxious and the press began to get anxious. They wanted an answer. Intelligence had tried one answer, the then Top Secret Estimate of the Situation that "proved" that UFO's were real, but it was kicked back. The people on the UFO project began to think maybe the brass didn't consider them too sharp so they tried a new hypothesis: UFO's don't exist. In no time they found that this was easier to prove and it got recognition. Before if an especially interesting UFO report came in and the Pentagon wanted an answer, all they'd get was an "It could be real but we can't prove it." Now such a request got a quick, snappy "It was a balloon," and feathers were stuck in caps from ATIC up to the Pentagon. Everybody felt fine.
In early 1949 the term "new look" was well known. The new look in women's fashions was the lower hemlines, in automobiles it was longer lines. In UFO circles the new look was cuss 'em.
The new look in UFO's was officially acknowledged on February 11, 1949, when an order was written that changed the name of the UFO project from Project Sign to Project Grudge. The order was supposedly written because the classified name, Project Sign, had been compromised. This was always my official answer to any questions about the name change. I'd go further and say that the names of the projects, first Sign, then Grudge, had no significance. This wasn't true, they did have significance, a lot of it.
The Dark Ages
The order of February 11, 1949, that changed the name of Project Sign to Project Grudge had not directed any change in the operating policy of the project. It had, in fact, pointed out that the project was to continue to investigate and evaluate reports of sightings of unidentified flying objects. In doing this, standard intelligence procedures would be used. This nor-
60.The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects
mally means the unbiased evaluation of intelligence data. But it doesn't take a great deal of study of the old UFO files to see that standard intelligence procedures were no longer being used by Project Grudge. Everything was being evaluated on the premise that UFO's couldn't exist. No matter what you see or hear, don't believe it.
New people took over Project Grudge. ATIC's top intelligence specialists who had been so eager to work on Project Sign were no longer working on Project Grudge. Some of them had drastically and hurriedly changed their minds about UFO's when they thought that the Pentagon was no longer sympathetic to the UFO cause. They were now directing their talents toward more socially acceptable projects. Other charter members of Project Sign had been "purged." These were the people who had refused to change their original opinions about UFO's.
With the new name and the new personnel came the new objective, get rid of the UFO's. It was never specified this way in writing but it didn't take much effort to see that this was the goal of Project Grudge. This unwritten objective was reflected in every memo, report, and directive.
To reach their objective Project Grudge launched into a campaign that opened a new age in the history of the UFO. If a comparative age in world history can be chosen, the Dark Ages would be most appropriate. Webster's Dictionary defines the Dark Ages as a period of "intellectual stagnation."
To one who is intimately familiar with UFO history it is clear that Project Grudge had a two phase program of UFO annihilation. The first phase consisted of explaining every UFO report. The second phase was to tell the public how the Air Force had solved all the sightings. This, Project Grudge reasoned, would put an end to UFO reports.
Phase one had been started by the people of Project Sign. They realized that a great many reports were caused by people seeing balloons or such astronomical bodies as planets, meteors, or stars. They also realized that before they could get to the heart of the UFO problems they had to sift out this type of report. To do this they had called on outside help. Air Weather Service had been asked to screen the reports and check those that sounded like balloons against their records of balloon flights. Dr. J. Allen Hynek, distinguished astrophysicist and head of Ohio State University's Astronomy Department, had been given a contract to sort out those reports that could be blamed on stars, planets, meteors, etc. By early March the Air Weather Service and Dr. Hynek had some positive identifications. According to the old records, with these solutions and those that Sign and Grudge had already found, about 50 per cent of the reported UFO's could now be positively identified as hoaxes, balloons,
The Dark Ages.61
planets, sundogs, etc. It was now time to start phase two, the publicity campaign.
For many months reporters and writers had been trying to reach behind the security wall and get the UFO story from the horse's mouth, but no luck. Some of them were still trying but they were having no success because they were making the mistake of letting it slip that they didn't believe that airline pilots, military pilots, scientists, and just all around solid citizens were having "hallucinations," perpetrating "hoaxes," or being deceived by the "misidentification of common objects." The people of Project Grudge weren't looking for this type of writer, they wanted a writer who would listen to them and write their story. As a public relations officer later told me, "We had a devil of a time.
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