in the news 1952
PART TWO OF TWENTY-SIX PARTS
Above: Painting of "green fireball" by Mrs. Lincoln LaPaz, published in Life magazine.
NINETEEN FIFTY-TWO might be remembered for many things, large and small. The election of Dwight Eisenhower as President of the United States. Fifty thousand American families afflicted by polio. The British A-bomb. The first issue of Mad magazine. The theory of the "Big Bang".
But for those of a certain bent, 1952 will also be remembered for the second great 'flying saucer flap' which climaxed with the reports of radar and visual sightings over the nation's capital in late July.
Part of the story of that event-filled year is now available in declassified government files. But for the public back then -- at a time when only one in three families in America had a television set -- the story was mostly found in the newspapers and magazines.
This then is a look back at those stories, as they first appeared in print...
APRIL 1 THROUGH APRIL 7, 1952:
Anderson, Indiana Herald - 1 Apr 52
FIREMEN SEIZE FIRST INVADER -- Shown above is a weird scene made last night by an alert photographer, as firemen battled a blaze in an abandoned warehouse in the city's south section and aided in seizing two of ten "little men" who were discharged here from a space-type rocket ship. Officials believe the fire was caused by the landing-blast of a foreign rocket ship which flashed over the city late last night to discharge ten of its crew, two of whom were apprehended by authorities. Fireman on wall is reaching for the second invader, presumably from another planet. The photographer escaped with this view before tight military censorship was clamped down. It is believed eight of the visitors are still at large here. National authorities are making a hurried investigation.
Abilene, Texas Reporter News - 3 Apr 52
Visitors From Space?
'Flying Saucers' Reported Under Study by Air Force
NEW YORK, April 3 -- The United States Air Force was reported by Life magazine today to be taking a new, serious interest in "flying saucers."
"The Air force is now ready to concede that many saucer and fireball sightings still defy explanation," Life said in an 11-page article entitled, "Have We Visitors From Space?"
It said the Air Force now maintains constant intelligence investigation of unidentified aerial objects and "military aircraft are alerted to attempt interception."
The magazine declared that this represented a sharp change in a previous Air Force policy of "official calm" concerning the eerie sky phenomena.
Life said its own investigation indicated that solid objects have existed, and may still exist, in the earth's atmosphere and that they are not of American or Russian origin, nor made by any man.
It said it was "plausible" that they originated beyond the earth, possibly on other planets, and that the answer to the mystery "may come in a generation -- or tomorrow."
Recognized scientists have seen the objects and given credence to them, the magazine said. It printed three photographs of strange lights flying in a "V" formation like a flock of geese near Lubbock, Tex. The pictures were taken on Aug. 30, 1951, by Carl Hart Jr., 18.
Life said, "The Air Force, after the closest examination, has found nothing fraudulent about Hart's pictures."
The magazine said that out of its "exhaustive inquiry these propositions seem firmly shaped by the evidence:
"1. Discs, cylinders and similar objects of geometrical form, luminous quality and solid nature for several years have been, and may be now, actually present in the atmosphere of the earth.
"2. Globes of green fire also, of a brightness more intense than the full moon's, have frequently passed through the skies.
"3. These objects cannot be explained by present science as natural phenomena -- but solely as artificial devices, created and operated by a high intelligence.
"4. Finally, no power plant; known or projected on earth could account for the performance of those devices."
Lubbock, Texas Evening Journal - 3 Apr 52
Fiery Object Seen In State
Residents of at least seven Texas cities last night watched a fiery, fast-moving object with a flaming tail flash across the sky.
At Fort Worth, Houston, Wichita Falls, Longview, Dallas, Olney and Graham residents wondered if what they saw would start another flurry of "flying saucer" reports in the state.
The noiseless object was seen by Fort Worth residents about 8:40 p.m. traveling south to north on what happened to be a flat trajectory.
An amateur astronomer at Graham, E.B. Street, saw it and said he didn't think it was a meteor.
But Fort Worth astronomer Oscar Monnig -- who didn't see it -- said, "I can't help but think it was a meteor."
At Olney, Bill Easley saw the object flash from southwest to northeast and described it as a "reddish streak." An unidentified Wichita Falls man reported the object as "trailing a bluish light."
If it were the same object Houston residents saw, the "thing" was traveling at almost unbelievable speed, or at a tremendous altitude. Houstonians saw it about 8:40, too.
Some persons at Houston thought it was a jet plane, others thought it a meteor, and still others thought they saw the object fall to earth.
Dallas Weather Bureau employes said two reports of objects in the sky came to them, but they would make no speculation on the reports.
[From another version of the story, published in the Corsicana, Texas Semi Weekly Light ...]
John Allen of Radio Station KFRO, Longview, said 15 persons telephoned in before 7 p.m. to report seeing a red, round object shooting across the skies at a tremendous speed. It was moving eastward, they said. It trailed vapor, but no sound was heard. It was sighted about sundown.
Sighted By Pilot.
Len Johnson of Radio Station KWKC, Abilene, said a Pioneer Airlines pilot reported seeing the object about 8:43 p.m., moving an estimate 800 miles per hour. The pilot, on a flight from Lubbock to Abilene and whose name wasn't learned, said he didn't believe it was a meteor or a jet plane but "some type of rocket."
Corsicana, Texas Semi Weekly Light 4 Apr 52
3 Corsicanans See Mysterious Object In Sky
At least three Corsicana persons saw the mysterious object which appeared in the sky about 9 p.m. Wednesday. Mr. and Mrs. Joe York, 400 North Thirty-seventh street, and Dr. C. L. Gary, Jr., 405 North Thirty-eighth street, reported they watched the fire-spitting thing for about a minute.
The Yorks were in their back yard, they said, when they heard a plane in the southwest. This they readily identified. Soon they noticed the strange object, which they said was round in shape and spouting two jets of flame.
"The front of the thing," said York, "was a different color than the jets. It was traveling from the southwest to the northeast."
York estimated the object was up about 15,000 feet and traveling fast as it disappeared from sight in about a minute.
"It kept a level course and made no sound at all," said York.
The Yorks called Dr. Gary to see the object.
East Liverpool, Ohio Review 4 Apr 52
Air Force Still Checks 'Flying Saucer' Reports
WASHINGTON – The Air Force says it is continuing to check all "flying saucer" reports and welcomes them. But checking is done now through normal staff channels, rather than as a special project.
In most cases, an Air Force spokesman said, the findings have proved to be weather balloons and natural phenomena.
There remains, however, a number of reported sightings that cannot be thus explained and as long as this is true the Air Force will continue to study the problem.
All reports are turned over to the Air Technical Intelligence Center at Wright Patterson Air Force Base.
The spokesman said this continued interest should not be interpreted by the public "that new evaluations have been made or that new conclusions have been reached. This is not the case."
The statement was in answer to inquiries concerning a Life Magazine report that the Air Force is taking new serious interest in flying saucers.
Lubbock, Texas Morning Avalanche 4 Apr 52
"FROM THESE . . . LITTLE MEN?" -- Above are the strange "Lubbock lights" flying in close formation which were snapped here by 18-year old Carl Hart Jr., of 2332 19th St. last fall and over which much discussion has been forthcoming. Life magazine features this photo -- along with two others -- in its current issue which reveals that the U. S. Air Force has given serious study to the theory that the "lights" may be from another planet.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Carl Hart, Jr.
'Flying Whatsits' Seen As Possible 'Space Visitors'
He "Shot" The "Saucers"
THE "Flying Whatsits" are with us again! And with Lubbock in the national spotlight...
Fact or fancy . . . the strange sky objects which have excited much of the nation and many parts of the world for the past four years are back in the news.
Lubbock Paper Kept Secret
Today, throughout the nation, a national picture magazine -- Life -- will appear on the newsstands with a dazzling feature story and pictures centered on the strange objects.
The story reveals for the first time that the U.S. Air Force now is making a serious study of the so-called "Flying Saucers" on the theory that they definitely could be from another planet . . . a theory which The Avalanche-Journal has known and kept secret -- at the request of the highest intelligence sources of the Air Force -- for the past seven months!
Photos Not Explained
Late last night, the Air Force had neither confirmed nor denied the Life report, but was quoted as saying it would concede that many "saucer" reports, including the Lubbock report, defied explanation.
Much of the new interest in the "flying saucers" -- and the reported Air Force theory -- came as a result of a series of unusual pictures made by a teenage Lubbock photographer one night late last August.
The photographer is Carl Hart Jr., of 2322 19th St. Reproductions of the pictures, which originally appeared in The Avalanche-Journal last Sept. 1 and 2, appear prominently in Life's feature story -- "Have We Visitors From Space?"
A portion of the article's text is devoted to the findings and observations of Dr. A.G. Oberg, Dr. W.L. Robinson, Prof. W.L. Ducker and Dr. E.L. George, all Tech faculty members who first reported sighting a "string of pearl-like objects" moving with "incredible speed through Lubbock skies last August.
Investigators Flew Here
Much of the material and some of the pictures has appeared in The Morning Avalanche and was furnished to Life by two Morning Avalanche staff writers and photographers.
A great deal of the information was disclosed -- with strict security regulations against printing -- to The Avalanche-Journal last fall when special Air Force investigators from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, flew to Lubbock to conduct an investigation.
That investigation has resulted, after a close study, in disclosure that "nothing fraudulent has been found about Hart's pictures." The photos reveal a beadlike string of lights flying in what can only be termed "close formation," the article points out.
In capsule form, the Life story reveals:
1. The objects viewed are not
2. They are not products of U. S. research.
3. They are not of Russian development.
4. They are not distortions of the atmosphere resulting from atomic activity.
5. They are not all Skyhook balloons.
In short, "there is a definite case for interplanetary saucers!"
ANOTHER VIEW -- Above is another picture of the "flying whatsits" snapped by Carl Hart Jr., here last summer. The picture appeared in The Lubbock Morning Avalanche Sep. 1, 1951. It and others taken by the youthful photographer are featured in the current issue of Life magazine now on the news stands throughout the nation.
Two Avalanche-Journal newsmen worked closely with Life in gathering the data used which concerned this section of the country. Files were made available to the magazine and Staff Photographers Bill Hams and Kenneth May furnished pictures of Hart and the Tech professors which appeared with the article.
Shortly after the first of October, 1951, special investigators from the super-secret intelligence headquarters at Wright-Patterson Field were flown to Lubbock to check on the stories which had been coming from this area.
Film Closely Tested
Young Hart's film was taken by the Air Force and underwent a thorough test. Hart himself was questioned endlessly as were Dr. Oberg, Prof. Ducker, Dr. Robinson and Dr. George.
Under questioning from newsmen here the Air Force investigators revealed -- under strict orders against printing at that time -- many of the theories and facts advanced in the Life article.
To a direct question "Could the so-called saucers be from some source other than earth?" Air Force officials looked at one another then admitted there was a definite possibility they could be from some other source.
Dozens of reports fowed [sic] in last fall -- some of which were attributed to flocks of ducks and other normal objects -- but no conclusion was ever reached and the clamor sooned [sic] died out.
"Fireballs" Were Sighted
A few weeks later attention shifted to Arizona and New Mexico where greenish "fireballs" hurtled across the skies.
The Life article points out that many saucer reports and stories have been discredited. Normal explanations have been accepted in some instances.
But after the material was sifted by the Air Technical Intelligence Center at Wright-Patterson approximately 10 cases out of the formidable list on record remained.
For them there seemed no explanation -- save one.
The "Lubbock Lights," as they were dubbed, heads the list of those cases which remained.
"THE AIR FORCE AGREES..." -- The four Texas Tech faculty members whose observations on "Flying Saucers" are discussed
in the current issue of Life magazine are shown above. The
magazine reveals that the Air Force is conducting an exhausting
study on the theory that the "saucers" may be from another
planet. They are from left to right, Dr. A.P. Oberg, Prof Ducker.
Dr. W.I. Robinson and Dr. E.L. George. This is one of a series
of photos which appears in this week's issue of Life magazine.
(Staff Photo By Kenneth May.)
Started Last August
The Lubbock Incident began last August. On a clear, hot night in late August, Dr. Robinson stood in the back yard of his home at 2612 24th St. talking with Prof. Ducker and Dr. Oberg.
Chancing to glance upward all three men saw a number of lights race across the sky.
Prof. Ducker first made his report to The Morning Avalanche and a story on the incident appeared the next morning.
From that time on dozens of persons in this area caught glimpses of the things. Some were written off as birds, others as reflections from the ground.
Shot Photos At Night
Young Hart standing in his back yard one night shortly after Ducker and his colleagues first sighted the objects, got to make five exposures of the lights. He used a Kodak 35M.M. camera which was set at F3.5 at 1/10 of a second.
Concerning the Lubbock flights Life draws these conclusions: "The observations were too numerous and too similar to be doubted. In addition the Air Force, after the closest examination, has found nothing fraudulent about Hart's pictures.
"The Lubbock lights were much too bright to be reflections and therefore must be bodies containing sources of light."
And through use of the facts gleaned by the quartet of professors "it might be assumed that they were at least 50,000 feet in the air and were traveling 18,000 mph."
Officers Claimed Serious
Life points out that "officers at policy level in the Air Force have begun to show concern. The higher you go in the Air Force the more seriously they take the flying saucers," Life writes.
The magazine also points out that the "rank of science has taken the saucers far more seriously than the file of laymen and, after five years of close watch on all reports a large number of scientists are ready with some conclusions."
And those conclusions lean more and more toward the fact that we may have "visitors from space."
Other Incidents Related
Briefly the other incidents related by Life include facts gathered from "saucer sighters" at several points in the Western United States.
A noted astronomer -- one of the nation's foremost -- who asked that his name be withheld revealed a startling incident which occurred west of Clovis, N.M. in July of 1947.
He and his family saw an object described as a "wobbling ellipsoidal (a shape closely resembling a "fat" saucer) which moved at rapid speeds."
The astronomer mentioned is believed to be Dr. Lincoln LaPaz of the University of New Mexico, one of the nation's outstanding authorities on "fireballs" who recently was quoted as saying he had reason to doubt that all the strange objects were caused by "natural phenomena."
Dr. LaPaz visited in Lubbock as long ago as the summer of 1950 when a strange object exploded southwest of here and at that time told The Morning Avalanche in secret that he even then suspected that something "unnatural" could be behind the reports on the "saucers."
In 1949 a group of five technicians working for Naval Research glimpsed a white elliptical object moving at "extremely rapid speeds" across the skies near Arrey, N.M.
Still another of the things was seen at Las Cruces, N.M., by Clyde W. Tombaugh, the discoverer of the planet Pluto. An Air Force officer, not named, who has the highest security rating given in the Armed Forces told Life of seeing five metallic objects ripping across the radar screen he was watching. His location was not disclosed.
Sighted By Pilots
Pilots have also sighted and followed -- as much as conventional aircraft will allow -- the strange objects in Iowa and New Mexico.
But one of the strongest arguments comes from the well known mathematician, astronomer and the director of the Institute of Meteoritics at the University of New Mexico, Dr. LaPaz.
Dr. LaPaz lends his stature to the reports by revealing he viewed firsthand one of the green fireballs.
The "flying saucer" story first broke on the nation June 24, 1947 when a private pilot named Kenneth Arnold was flying from Chehalis to Yakima in Washington. He reported seeing nine "saucerlike things . . . flying like geese in a diagonal, chainlike line." He estimated they were traveling at 1,200 miles an hour.
Oxnard, California Press Courier 4 Apr 52
Oval Joins Flying Saucers
BENSON, Ariz. -- Two Air Force pilots said today they watched for an hour as a huge oval-shaped object, possibly five or six times the size of a B-29 bomber, hovered at about 55,000 feet above them.
Chick Logan and C.M. Jasper, both veteran flight commanders from Marana, Ariz. Air Force Base, saw the king-sized object from the air.
Flight instructor Paul Wilkerson, Tucson, and Skeet Taylor, owner of a local airport, said they saw it from the ground.
Davis-Monthan Air Force Base at Tucson said some B-36s were flying in the Benson area at an altitude of 40,000 feet.
However, Logan said, the object did not have wings.
"The sky was bright blue," he said, "and the object stood out like a sore thumb. I couldn't go any higher than 14,000 feet because I had no oxygen with me.
"The object was bright and shone like polished aluminum. I've been flying for 25 years and never saw anything like it. It was weird."
Melbourne, Australia The Age 5 Apr 52
Report of Huge "Flying Saucer"
NEW YORK, April 4 (A.A.P.) -- The United States air force today had a new "flying saucer" report to worry about.
At least four men stationed at an Air Force base near Tucson (Arizona) yesterday reported seeing a strange oval-shaped object in the air.
A civilian flight commander, Chick Logan, described the object as five or six times as large as a Super Fortress bomber.
"It was not like a saucer, but more oblong," Logan said. "I flew as high as I could, to 14,000 feet and it appeared to be at least 40,000 feet higher than that.
"It was bright and shone like polished aluminium. I'll tell you, I have been flying for 25 years now, and I have never seen anything like it."
The Air Force had announced yesterday it had alerted field commands to report on "unconventional aerial objects."
It had done this, the Air Force said, because there had been a number of sightings of "unusual aerial manifestations" that could not be explained.
Abilene, Texas Reporter News 6 Apr 52
Editorial: Earthlings or Martians
It is impossible for the finite mind to grasp the significance of the thesis that our flying saucers are not optical illusions, mass hysteria or chimera, and not even secret aeronautical gadgets concocted by the U.S. or Russia or some other nation, but space ships from another planet.
That is an assumption quite literally out of this world, since nothing in our previous experience, or even within the range of our philosophy or science, has prepared us mentally to accept the fact even as an article of faith. It is like trying to imagine infinitude, which no finite mind can do.
Commenting on Life magazine's flying saucer splurge, the U.S. Air Force does nothing to clarify the mystery nor to support or deny the existence of space ships from other planets nosing around our tiny globe. It is keeping an eye on these phenomena through normal "channels," having finished earlier a two-year intensive investigation which cleared up many reported sightings as being nothing more than weather balloons and natural manifestations.
"There remains, however," the Air Force says, "a number of reported sightings that cannot be thus explained and as long as this is true, the Air Force will continue to study the problem."
So, until one of the things is actually shot down or forced to land on earth, we shall have to take the existence of interplanetary space ships on faith, just as we accept the immortality of the soul.
If we can believe that there are inhabitants of another planet enormously more advanced in science than we, we must also be prepared to believe that they are beings transmogrified from earthlings to Martians, or occupants of some other planet. For it is no more difficult for us to believe that our dead live on in some spatial place and are capable of returning to us not as ghosts but as living and sentient beings as to believe that life has developed on some other planet quite divorced from any earthly connection.
Surely the God Who made the heavens and the earth and breathed the breath of life into all creatures could repeat the miraculous exploit innumerable times, and fill the void of infinity with ten thousand worlds differing not a whit from our own, each inhabited by the same or an endless variety of life.
Or He could reincarnate the souls that sped [sic] this earth to some other in habitation, and permit them to return after eons of time to the point of origin in a space ship too marvelous for us earthlings to duplicate, or even to imagine in our maddest dreams.
We suppose some science fiction writer, sooner or later -- if it hasn't already been done -- will think up a piece in which a flying saucer will land somewhere on earth and discharge a cargo of reincarnated immortals to startle us earthlings out of our wits.
One such interplanetary transport might, for instance, restore to us William Shakespeare, ready to revitalize our literature, or George Washington, to remind Americans that they have made ducks and drakes of their heritage, or St. Louis, to bring the French to their senses.
We could use, goodness knows, the living presence of some of those thunderous Old Testament prophets, to dangle us over the Pit of brimstone, for the good of our immortal souls. We could use a Noah, at this the start of the Atomic Age, to remind us that once before man got too smart for his own good and tried to leave God out of everything.
We are not sure that the world would believe in flying saucers, even if one could be made to land, and everybody was free to inspect it. For our time is filled with Doubting Thomases, and we have become so cynical that we'd denounce a genuine flying saucer as just another political trick.
In all seriousness, maybe we are on the verge of revelations such as those which accompanied Adam's awakening in the dust, or Jesus' emergence from the tomb.
Life Magazine 7 Apr 52
[NOTE: The original of this article as published can be read in its original professional layout and typesetting glory at the Life Magazine archive at Google Books here.]
Above: Beginning double-page spread of Life Magazine article. The caption underneath the painting read: "This is a scrupulously accurate eyewitness painting of a mysterious green fireball rushing through the night sky over New Mexico. It was done by Mrs. Lincoln La Paz, wife of an authority on meteors. Both she and her husband observed the fireballs at first hand."
HAVE WE VISITORS FROM SPACE?
The Air Force is now ready to concede that many saucer and fireball sightings still defy explanation; here LIFE offers some scientific evidence that there is a real case for interplanetary flying saucers.
by H.B. DARRACH JR. and ROBERT GINNA
FOR four years the U.S. public has wondered, worried or smirked over the strange and insistent tales of eerie objects streaking across American skies. Generally the tales have provoked only chills or titters -- only rarely, reflection or analysis.
Last week the U.S. Air Force made known to LIFE the following facts:
• As a result of continuing flying saucer reports the Air Force maintains constant intelligence investigation and study of unidentified aerial objects.
• A policy of positive action has been adopted to find out, as soon as possible, what is responsible for observations that have been made. As a part of this study, military aircraft are alerted to attempt interception, and radar and photographic equipment will be used in an attempt to obtain factual data. If opportunity offers, attempts will be made to recover such unidentified objects.
• Already all operational units of the Air Force have been alerted to report in detail any sightings of unidentified aerial objects. Other groups -- scientists, private and commercial pilots, weather observers -- all trained observers whose work in any way concerns the sky, and what happens in it, are urged to make immediate reports to Air Technical Intelligence Center at Wright-Patterson AFB, Dayton, Ohio of any unidentified aerial objects they sight.
• Further, for the first time since Project "Saucer" was changed from a special-type project to a standard intelligence function, in December 1949, the Air Force invites all citizens to report their sightings to the nearest Air Force installation. All reports will be given expert consideration and those of special interest will be thoroughly investigated. The identity of those making such reports will be kept in confidence; no one will be ridiculed for making one.
• There is no reason as yet to believe that any of the aerial phenomena commonly described as flying saucers are caused by a foreign power or constitute a clear and present danger to the U.S. or its citizens.
These disclosures, sharply amending past Air Force policy, climaxed a review by LIFE with Air Force officials of all facts known in the case. This review has resulted from more than a year of sifting and weighing all reports of unexplained aerial phenomena -- from the so-called flying saucers to the mysterious green fireballs so often sighted in the Southwest (above). This inquiry has included scrutiny of hundreds of reported sightings, interviews with eyewitnesses across the country and careful reviews of the facts with some of the world's ablest physicists, astronomers and experts on guided missiles. For the first time the Air Force (while in no way identifying itself with any particular conclusions) has opened its files for study.
Out of this exhaustive inquiry these propositions seem firmly shaped by the evidence:
1. Disks, cylinders and similar objects of geometrical form, luminous quality and solid nature for several years have been, and may be now, actually present in the atmosphere of the earth.
2. Globes of green fire also, of a brightness more intense than the full moon's, have frequently passed through the skies.
3. These objects cannot be explained by present science as natural phenomena -- but solely as artificial devices, created and operated by a high intelligence.
4. Finally, no power plant known or projected on earth could account for the performance of these devices.
THE LUBBOCK LIGHTS, flying in formation, are considered by the Air Force the most unexplainable phenomena yet observed. These photographs were made at Lubbock, Texas on Aug. 30, 1951 by Carl Hart Jr. Scientists say lights were not natural objects, but they traveled too fast and too soundlessly for known machines.
Let us first review some widely known facts.
The shapes and inscrutable portents of the flying disks first broke upon the skies of the world in the early months of 1947, with several sightings reported to the Air Force. The story first reached the nation on June 24, 1947, when a private pilot named Kenneth Arnold was flying from Chehalis to Yakima, Wash. Some 25 miles away, Arnold saw nine "saucerlike things . . . flying like geese in a diagonal chainlike line," approaching Mount Rainier. They swerved in and out of the high peaks at a speed Arnold estimated to be 1,200 mph.
Arnold told the whole story to his hometown newspaper, and like summer lightning it flashed across the country. Within a month saucers had been reported by people in 40 states. For the public (as LIFE itself merrily reported in its issue of July 21, 1947) the saucers provided the biggest game of hey-diddle-diddle in history. Any man, woman, or child with talent enough to see spots before his eyes could get his name in the newspaper.
Nevertheless in serious moments most people were a little worried by all the "chromium hubcaps," "flying washtubs" and "whirling doughnuts" in the sky. Buried in the heap of hysterical reports were some sobering cases. One was the calamity that befell Air Force Captain Thomas F. Mantell on Jan. 7, 1948. That afternoon Mantell and two other F-51 fighter pilots sighted an object that looked like "an ice-cream cone topped with red" over Godman Air Force Base and Fort Knox, Ky. Mantell followed the strange object up to 20,000 feet and disappeared. Later in the day his body was found in a nearby field, the wreckage of his plane scattered for a half mile around. It now seems possible that Mantell was one of the very few sighters who actually were deceived by a Skyhook balloon, but the incident is still listed as unsolved in Air Force files.
There was no such easy explanation for the strange phenomenon observed at 2:45 a.m. on July 24, 1948 by two Eastern Air Lines pilots. Captain Clarence S. Chiles and Copilot John B. Whitted were flying in bright moonlight near Montgomery, Ala. when they suddenly saw "a bright glow" and a "long rocketlike ship" veer past them. They subsequently agreed that it was a "wingless aircraft, 100 feet long, cigar-shaped and about twice the diameter of a B-29, with no protruding surfaces, and two rows of windows . . . From the side of the craft came an intense, fairly dark blue glow . . . like a fluorescent factory light." They said the weird craft "pulled up with tremendous burst of flame from the rear and zoomed into the clouds at about 800 miles an hour," rocking their DC-3 with its "prop or jet wash."
Just as inexplicable was the experience of Lieut. George F. Gorman of the North Dakota Air National Guard. On Oct. 1, 1948 Gorman was coming in at dusk to land his F-51 at Fargo when he saw an intense, bright light pass 1,000 yards away. Curious, Gorman followed the light and saw that it seemed to be attached to nothing. For 27 hair-raising minutes Gorman pursued the light through a series of intricate maneuvers. He said it was about 6 inches in diameter and going faster than his F-51 (300-400 mph). It made no sound and left no exhaust trail. After Gorman landed, the light having suddenly flashed away in the upper air, he found support for his story – the chief of the control tower had followed the fantastic "combat" with binoculars.
The occurrences, jarring though they must have been to the participants, left the official calm of the Air Force unruffled. The project set up to investigate the saucers ("Project Sign," known to the press as "Project Saucer") seemed to have been fashioned more as a sedative to public controversy than as a serious inquiry into the facts. On Dec. 27, 1949, after two years of operation, Project Saucer wrote off all reports of unidentified aerial phenomena as hoaxes, hallucinations or misinterpretations of familiar objects -- that is, all but 34. These stubborn 34, seemingly unexplainable, were briskly dismissed as psychological aberrations.
While these assurances appeased most of the press and pacified the public, some elements in the Air Force just about this time began to worry a bit more seriously. Saucer reports continued to come in a rate of about one a day and were handled under the code name of "Project Grudge." Officers at policy level began to show concern. "The higher you go in the Air Force," conceded one Intelligence officer, "the more seriously they take the flying saucers."
There was good reason to be serious. As review of all records has now shown, these years have produced literally dozens of incidents defying simple explanation -- and provoking the most incredible questions.
Checked and rechecked, 10 cases out of the formidable list on record are here presented in essential detail. Of these, three were discovered in the course of LIFE's own investigation and are reported for the first time.
Incident 1. At 9:10 p.m. on Aug. 25, 1951, Dr. W.I. Robinson, professor of geology at the Texas technological College, stood in the back yard of his home in Lubbock, Texas and chatted with two colleagues. The other men were Dr. A.G. Oberg, a professor of chemical engineering, and Professor W.L. Ducker, head of the department of petroleum engineering. The night was clear and dark. Suddenly all three men saw a number of lights race noiselessly across the sky, from horizon to horizon, in a few seconds. They gave the impression of about 30 luminous beads, arranged in a crescent shape. A few moments later another similar formation flashed across the night. This time the scientists were able to judge that the lights moved through 30° of arc in a second. A check the next day with the Air Force showed that no planes had been over the area at the time. This was but the beginning: Professor Ducker observed 12 flights of the luminous objects between August and November of last year. Some of his colleagues observed as many as 10. Hundreds of nonscientific observers in a wide vicinity around Lubbock have seen as many as three flights of the mysterious crescents in one night. On the night of Aug. 30 an attempt to photograph the lights was made by 18-year old Carl Hart Jr. He used a Kodak 35-mm camera, at f. 3.5, 1/10 of a second. Working rapidly, Hart managed to get five exposures of the flights. The pictures exhibited by Hart as the result of this effort (pp. 80-81) show 18 to 20 luminous objects, more intense than the planet Venus, arranged in one or a pair of crescents. In several photographs, off to one side of the main flight, a larger luminosity is visible -- like a mother craft hovering near its aerial brood.
Professors at Texas Tech who saw Lubbock Lights (left to right), Dr. Oberg, Prof. Ducker, and Dr. Robinson, discuss them with Dr. E.L. George.
Evaluation. The observations have been too numerous and too similar to be doubted. In addition the Air Force, after the closest examination, has found nothing fraudulent about Hart's pictures. The lights are much too bright to be reflections, and therefore bodies containing sources of light. Since Professors Ducker, Oberg and Robinson could not measure the size and distance of the formations, they could form no precise estimate of their speed. However they calculated that if the lights were flying at an altitude of 5,000 feet they must then have been traveling about 1,800 mph. The professors, along with other scientists, agree that in order to explain the silence of the objects, it must be assumed that they were at least 50,000 feet in the air; in which case they were going not 1,800 but 18,000 mph.
Incident 2. On July 10, 1947 at 4:47 p.m., one of the U.S.'s top astronomers was driving from Clovis to Clines Corners, N. Mex. His wife and his teen-aged daughters were also in the car. (For professional reasons he has asked LIFE to withhold identity.) It was a bright sunny day, but the whole western half of the sky was a "confused cloud sea." All at once, as the car headed toward these clouds, "all four of us almost simultaneously became aware of a curious bright object almost motionless" among the clouds. Instantly, from long habit in dealing with celestial phenomena, he began to make calculations with what crude materials he had at hand. He held a pencil at arm's length, measured the size of the object against the windshield of the car, measured the distance between his eyes and the windshield, etc. His wife and two daughters did the same, each making independent calculations. The object, says the scientist, "showed a sharp and firm regular outline, namely one of a smooth elliptical character much harder and sharper than the edges of the cloudlets. . . . The hue of the luminous object was somewhat less white than the light of Jupiter in a dark sky, not aluminum or silver-colored. . . . The object clearly exhibited a sort of wobbling motion. . . . This wobbling motion served to set off the object as a rigid, if not solid body." After 30 seconds in plain view, the ellipsoid moved slowly behind a cloud (273° azimuth, elevation 1°) "and we thought we had lost it." But approximately five seconds later it reappeared (275° azimuth, elevation 2°). "This remarkably sudden ascent thoroughly convinced me that we were dealing with an absolutely novel airborne device." After reappearing, the object moved slowly from south to north across the clouds. "As seen projected against these dark clouds, the object gave the strongest impression of self-luminosity." About two and a half minutes after it first came into view, the thing disappeared finally behind a cloudbank.
Evaluation. The astronomer vouches for the approximate accuracy of his observations and computations. He determined that the object was not less than 20 nor more than 30 miles from his viewing point; that it was ellipsoidal and rigid; that it was 160 feet long and 65 feet thick, if seen at minimum distance, or 245 feet long and 100 feet thick if at maximum; and that its horizontal speed ranged between 120 and 180 mph and its vertical rise between 600 and 900 mph. He also observed that the object moved with a wobble, no sound, and left no exhaust or vapor trail. His wife and daughters supported his observations, and their computations were in accordance with his own, though slightly less conservative. The object's appearance and behavior answer no known optical or celestial phenomenon. No known or projected aircraft, rocket or guided missile can make such a rapid vertical ascent without leaving an exhaust or vapor trail.
Incident 3. On April 24, 1949 at 10:20 a.m., a group of five technicians under the general supervision of J. Gordon Vaeth, an aeronautical engineer employed by the Office of Naval Research, were preparing to launch a Skyhook balloon near Arrey, N. Mex. A small balloon was sent up first to check the weather. Charles B. Moore Jr., an aerologist of General Mills Inc. (pioneers in cosmic ray research), was tracing [sic] the weather balloon through a theodolite -- a 25-power telescopic instrument which gives degrees of azimuth and elevation (horizontal and vertical position) for any object it is sighted on. At 10:30 a.m. Moore leaned back from the theodolite to glance at the balloon with his naked eye. Suddenly he saw a whitish elliptical object, apparently much higher than the balloon, and moving in the opposite direction. At once he picked the object up in his theodolite at 45° of elevation and 210° of azimuth, and tracked it east at the phenomenal rate of 5° of azimuth-change per second as it dropped swiftly to an elevation of 25°. The object appeared to be an ellipsoid roughly two and a half times as long as it was wide. Suddenly it swung abruptly upward and rushed out of sight in a few seconds. Moore had tracked it for about 60 seconds altogether. The other members of his crew confirmed his report. No sound was heard, no vapor trail was seen. The object, according to rough estimations by Moore and his colleagues, was about 56 miles above the earth, 100 feet long and was traveling at seven miles per second.
Evaluation. No known optical or atmospheric phenomenon fits the facts. No natural object traveling at seven miles per second has never been seen to make a sudden upward turn. There is no known or projected source of silent, vaporless power for such a machine. No human being could have borne the tremendous "G" load brought to bear on the craft during its abrupt vertical veer.
Incident 4. One night in the summer of 1948 Clyde W. Tombaugh, the discoverer of the planet Pluto, was sitting in the back yard of his home at Las Cruces, N. Mex. With him were his wife and his mother-in-law. It was about 11 p.m. and they were all sitting quietly, admiring the clarity of the southwestern sky, like any proper astronomical family. All at once they all saw something rush silently overhead, south to north, too fast for a plane, too slow for a meteor. It seemed to be quite low. All three of the witnesses agreed that the object was definitely a solid "ship" of a kind they had never seen before. It was of an oval shape and "seemed to trail off at the rear into a shapeless luminescence." There was a blue-green glow about the whole thing. About half a dozen "windows" were clearly visible at the front of the ship and along the side. They glowed with the same blue-green color as the rest of the ship, only the glare was brighter, and had a touch of yellow in it.
Evaluation. The object bore a resemblance to the craft seen by Pilots Chiles and Whitted. It bore resemblance to no aircraft known to be in operation on earth.
Incident 5. In this case LIFE's informant is an Air Force officer who holds a top military post at a key atomic base. Since his assignment and whereabouts must be kept a secret he has asked LIFE to withhold his name. He has the highest security rating given. Before he took his present assignment, this officer was in command of the radar equipment that keeps watch over a certain atomic installation. One day in the fall of 1949, while watching a radarscope that covered an area of sky 300 miles wide and 100,000 feet deep, he was startled to detect five apparently metallic objects flying south at tremendous speed and great height. They crossed the 300-mile scope in less than four minutes. The objects flew the whole time in formation.
Evaluation. There is no dead-certain explanation of this phenomenon -- radar is as full of tricks as an old-maid's imagination. However, the officer involved is an experienced observer, well aware of the eccentricities of the instrument. He believes that in this instance he made a legitimate radar contact. If so, it can be said that the only natural objects known to travel at such a speed are meteors, but meteors do not fly in formation. If the officer picked up machines, they were performing in a manner that rocket experts agree is still beyond the capabilities of earth's most advanced weapons.
"CIVILIAN SUACER INVESTIGATIONS" was organized by Sighter Ed J. Sullivan (standing), who urged other sighters to write to P.O. Box 1971, Main Post Office, Los Angeles. CSI includes Dr. Walther Riedel (behind Sullivan), who was chief designer at great German rocket laboratory at Peenemunde.
Incident 6. On May 29, 1951 at 3:48 p.m., three technical writers for the aerophysics department of North American Aviation's plant at Downey, outside Los Angeles, were chatting on the factory grounds. They were Victor Black, Werner Eichler and Ed J. Sullivan. All at once they stared at the sky. Sullivan describes what they saw: "Approximately 30 glowing, meteorlike objects sprayed out of the east at a point about 45° above the horizon, executed a right-angle turn and swept across the sky in an undulating vertical formation . . . that resembled a tuning fork on edge. It took each of them about 25 seconds to cross 90° of the horizon before performing another right-angle turn westward toward downtown Los Angeles . . . We estimated their diameter at 30 feet and their speed to be 1,700 mph. Each appeared as an intense electric blue light, round and without length. They moved with the motion of flat stones skipping across a smooth pond."
Evaluation. No known natural or optical phenomenon, makes the peculiar light, in bright day, attributed to these objects by Sullivan and his colleagues; nor can any natural object, hurtling at such a speed, execute a right angle turn. As in the Moore theodolite sighting, the execution of such a turn would have crushed any human crew under the impact of "G" forces. Finally, of course, no known machine travels at 1,700 mph without making a sound or leaving an exhaust or vapor trail.
Incident 7. On Jan. 20, 1951, at 8:30 p.m., Captain Lawrence W. Vinther of Mid-Continent Airlines was ordered by the control tower at the Sioux City airport to investigate a "very bright light" above the field. He took off in his DC-3 with his copilot, James F. Bachmeier, and followed the light. All at once the light dived at the DC-3 almost head on; it passed silently and at great speed about 200 feet above its nose. Both pilots wrenched their heads back to see where it had gone, only to discover that the thing had somehow reversed direction in a split second and was now flying parallel to the airliner, about 200 feet away, heading in the same direction. It was a clear moonlight night and both men got a good look at the object. It was as big or bigger than a B-29, had a cigar-shaped fuselage and a glider type wing, set well forward, without sweepback and without engine nacelles or jet pods. There was not exhaust glow. The white light appeared to be recessed in the bottom of the plane. After a few seconds the object lost altitude, passed under the DC-3 and disappeared. A civilian employee of Air Intelligence was a passenger on the flight, saw the object and confirms the description by the pilots.
Evaluation. The conditions for observation were excellent. One fact alone – the astonishing reversal of direction performed by the object – suffices to classify it as a device far beyond the known capacities of aeronautical science. Although its shape is different, the soundlessness of the object and the absence of observable means of propulsion relate it to the saucer class of phenomena.
HOW DISKS LOOKED in relation to each other is shown by C.E. Redman of Albuquerque. THE SAME DISKS sighted by Redman were seen by W.S. Morris, ex-Air Force master sergeant.
Incident 8. At 6:45 a.m., just before sunup on Feb. 18, 1952, a photographer named C.E. Redman was driving through Albuquerque, N. Mex. on his way to photograph a wedding. Stopped for a traffic light, he noticed two bright things in the sky. "They were hovering above Tijeras Canyon. . . . The one to the north was on its edge. The other was lying horizontally. They were bright, bluish white. . . . It was probably the most astonishing thing I've ever seen. Those things were soundless. They were not jets or vapor trails. I've seen hundreds of jets and vapor trails." Redman was questioned later the same day by a LIFE reporter and a prominent scientist, working together. From his testimony, and from the lay of the land, it was estimated that the disks were 20 miles away and four miles in the air, and that they had a diameter of about 136 feet. Another witness saw the same objects Redman saw, and at the same time, but from the other side of town. W.S. Morris, a retired master sergeant of the Air Force who is now a newsdealer in Albuquerque, was out to drop off his morning papers when he saw two strange objects over Tijeras Canyon. "I watched them for 12 minutes. They were a blinding silver, long and thin, gleaming all over. They hovered, one kind of above the other to the right. They seemed brighter than the sun, which wasn't yet over the Sandia mountains. It just touched their bottoms and they glowed red. They didn't flutter or move. They just hung there. It must have been 20 miles away. Then they just suddenly dropped down behind the mountain, and the upper one tilted so that I could see its profile. It looked like a bell pepper -- with a bump on top, that is."
Evaluation. Kirtland AFB acknowledged that there were no aircraft in that area at that time. The observations reinforce each other and point to several striking facts. First, one disk proved itself three dimensional when it tilted to descend. Second, the suddenness of the disk's descent indicates that the bodies contained a source of power. Third, the power that can suspend a three-dimensional body, of the size Morris describes and in the position he indicates, without turning a blade or roaring a jet, is unknown.
Incident 9. On Jan. 29, 1952, just before midnight, a B-29 was on solo mission over Wonsan, Korea. It was flying at a speed somewhat less than 200 miles an hour, at an altitude somewhat above 20,000 feet. Simultaneously the tail gunner and the fire-control man in the waist saw a bright round orange object in the sky near the plane. Both said it was about three feet in diameter, flew with a revolving motion on a course parallel to theirs, and wore a halo of bluish flame. It also appeared to pulsate. The object followed the B-29 for about five minutes, then pulled ahead and shot away at a sharp angle. On the same night a similar globe was seen by the tail gunner and waist man of another B-29, 80 miles away over Sunchon, but flying at about the same height. The globe followed the plane for about a minute, then disappeared.
Evaluation. Theoreticians in the Air Force believe the fireballs were not natural phenomena but propelled objects. They bear some similarity to the balls of fire -- called "fireball fighters" or "foo fighters" -- which flew wing on Allied aircraft over Germany and Japan during 1944-45 and which have never been satisfactorily explained. In the Korean incidents, the fireballs seem -- on the evidence of their sharp acceleration, their blue light and their abrupt, angular swerve -- to resemble the saucers described earlier.
Incident 10. On the night of Nov. 2, 1951 a ball of kelly-green fire, larger than the moon and blazing several times more brightly, flashed eastward across the skies of Arizona. It raced, straight as a bullet, parallel to the ground, and then exploded in a frightful paroxysm of light -- without making a sound. At least 165 people saw the incredible thing; hundreds more witnessed the similar flight of countless other fireballs that since December 1948 have bathed the hills of the Southwest in their lunar glare. In the last year they have been seen as far afield as Pennsylvania, Maryland and Puerto Rico. The chief Air Intelligence officer for the Albuquerque district saw one. Colonel Joseph D. Caldara, USAF, attached to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, saw one in Virginia. Hundreds of pilots, weather observers and atomic scientists have sighted them. Reports came so thick and fast during 1948 that in 1949 the Air Force established "Project Twinkle" to investigate them. Project Twinkle established a triple photo-theodolite post at Vaughn, N. Mex. to obtain scientific data on the fireballs. Day and night, week in, week out, for three months, a crew kept vigil. Ironically, while fireballs continued flashing everywhere else in the Southwest, they saw nothing until the project was transferred to the Holloman Air Force Base at Alamogordo, N. Mex. There, during another three-months siege, they saw a few but were unable to make satisfactory computations because of the fireballs' great-speed. Search parties have had no better luck. They have combed in vain the countryside beneath the point of disappearance; not a trace of telltale substance has been found on the ground.
Evaluation. The popular Southwest belief that a strange meteor shower was underway has been blasted by Dr. Lincoln LaPaz, mathematician, astronomer and director of the Institute of Meteoritics at the University of New Mexico. He points out that normal fireballs do not appear green, they fall in the trajectory forced on them by gravity, are generally noisy as a freight train, and leave meteorites where they hit. The green New Mexican species does none of these things. Neither do the green fireballs appear to be electrostatic phenomena -- they move too regularly and too fast.
If the fireballs are the product of a U.S. weapons project, as some Southwesterners believe, it is a very secret one indeed: the Atomic Energy Commission and every other government agency connected with weapons development has denied to LIFE any responsibility for the fireballs. Could they be self-destroying Russian reconnaissance devices? Not likely. While the U.S. believes the Russians have an intercontinental guided missile, there is no intelligence that indicates they have developed silent power plants or objects capable of moving nearly as fast as meteors (12 miles a second). Yet -- for whatever it may be worth -- the only reports of green fireballs prior to 1948 came from the Baltic area.
If the fireballs do not respond to gravity, they could only be explained as lighter-than-air craft or electrical phenomena -- but they have characteristics which rule these out. Therefore they must be propelled. If propelled and not natural phenomena, they must be artificial. The extreme greenness of the fireballs has impressed most witnesses. When asked to indicate the approximate color on a spectrum chart, most of them have touched the band at 5,200 angstroms -- close to the green of burning copper. Copper is almost never found in meteorites; the friction of the air oxidizes it shortly after the meteor enters the upper atmosphere. However, a curious fact has been recorded by aerologists. Concentrations of copper particles are now present in the air of Arizona and New Mexico, particularly in "fireball areas." These were not encountered in air samples made before 1948.
What they are not -- and what they may be
WHAT are the flying saucers, the luminous fuselages, the foo fighters and the green fireballs? The answer -- if any answer at this time is possible -- lies in the field of logic rather than of evidence. What the things are may be adduced partially by reviewing what they are not.
They are not psychological phenomena. Although the Air Force cheerily wrote off its 34 unexplained incidents with this pat theory, the explanation does not hold up. There is no evidence, beyond textbook speculation, for such a supposition, and there is the direct evidence already cited against it. To doubt the observers in the foregoing cases is to doubt the ability of every human being to know a hawk from a handsaw.
They are not products of U.S. research. LIFE investigated this possibility to exhaustion. Not fully satisfied by the public denials of President Truman, Secretary Johnson and others, the investigators put the question directly to Gordon Dean, chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission. He said: "There's nothing in our shop that could account for these things, and there's nothing going on that I know of that could explain them." Still unconvinced, LIFE checked the whereabouts and present business of every scientist who might have anything to do with the development of superaircraft. All were accounted for in other ways. Careful feelers through the business and labor world encountered no submerged projects of the immensity necessary to build a fleet of flying disks. And there is still the conclusive fact: U.S. science has at its command no source of power that could put a flying machine through such paces as the saucers perform.
They are not a Russian development. It is inconceivable that the Russians would risk the loss of such a precious military weapon by flying a saucer over enemy territory. No man-made machine is foolproof; sooner or later one would crash in the U.S. and the secret would be out. Nor is there any reason to believe that Russian science, even with German help, has moved beyond not only the practical but the theoretical horizons of U.S. research.
They are not distortions of the atmosphere resulting from atomic activity. To quote the answer David Lilienthal, former AEC commissioner, once made to that suggestion: "I can't prevent anyone from saying foolish things." Nor are they aberrations of the northern lights. Magnetic disturbances cannot account for them and neither can a notion (recently fathered by Dr. Urner Liddel, the Navy physicist) that they are "vertical mirages" -- reflections from a vertical (instead of a horizontal) layer of heated air.
They are not all Skyhook balloons. This was the original Liddel explanation, and in a few instances it may have been correct. But not many. They could scarcely be "fireflies in the cockpit," as one Air Force colonel suggested, since most of the observers were not in a cockpit when they saw their saucers. And it is hard to believe that saucers could be the reflections of automobile headlights on clouds, when they are seen in daylight under cloudless skies.
These being the dead-end alleys of negative evidence, is there hope of an explanation on the open avenues of scientific theory? The answer is yes.
The rank of science has taken the saucers far more seriously than the file of laymen and, after five years of close watch on all reports, a number of scientists were ready with some conclusions. One of these was Dr. Walther Riedel, once chief designer and research director at the German rocket center in Peenemunde, now engaged on secret work for the U.S. Dr. Riedel has never seen a saucer himself, but for several years he has kept records of saucer sightings all over the world. He told Life: "I am completely convinced that they have an out-of-world basis."
Dr. Riedel has four points to his argument: "First, the skin temperatures of structures operating under the observed conditions would make it impossible for any terrestrial structure to survive. The skin friction of the missile at those speeds at those altitudes would melt any metals or nonmetals available.
"Second, consider the high acceleration at which they fly and maneuver. . . . In some descriptions the beast spirals straight up. If you think of the fact that the centrifugal force in a few minutes of such a maneuver would press the crew against the outside, and do likewise to the blood, you see what I mean.
"Third . . . There are many occurrences where they have done things that only a pilot could perform but that no human pilot could stand.
"Fourth, in most of the reports there is a lack of visible jets. Most observers report units without visible flame . . . and no trail. If it would be any known type of jet, rocket, piston engine, or chain-reaction motor, there would be a very clear trail at high altitude. . . . It is from no power unit we know of . . . ."
Dr. Riedel's arguments are reinforced by those of Dr. Maurice A. Biot, one of the leading aerodynamicists in the U.S. and a prominent mathematical physicist. From an aerodynamical viewpoint, says Dr. Biot, the saucer shape makes very little sense if the machine is to travel in the atmosphere. A disk has a high drag and is a poor airfoil unless stabilized; when whirled at high speed through the air, it "wobbles" distressingly -- a movement observed in several of the saucers sighted. However, for space travel, where there is no atmosphere to oppose, the disk has significant advantages. The sphere, theoretically better, presents several difficult problems of construction and utilization. The disk, easier to build, has almost all the virtues of the sphere and some of its own. Reviewing the evidence presented here, Dr. Biot said: "The least improbable explanation is that these things are artificial and controlled. . . . My opinion for some time has been that they have an extraterrestrial origin."
Who? What? and When?
THERE, at least, is a plausible explanation of the disk shape. But the real depths of the saucer mystery bemuse penetration, as the night sky swallows up a flashlight beam. What of the other shapes? Why do the things make no sound? How to explain their eerie luminosity? What power urges them at such terrible speeds through the sky? Who, or what, is aboard? Where do they come from? Why are they here? What are the intentions of the beings who control them?
Before these awesome questions, science -- and mankind -- can yet only halt in wonder. Answers may come in a generation -- or tomorrow. Somewhere in the dark skies there may be those who know.
1. The April 1, 1952 picture and caption from the Anderson Herald was a spoof printed on the holiday known as "April Fools" or "All Fools Day". There was a lengthy article accompanying it which read...
Rocket Ship Discharges Ten Foreign Invaders Over City
A tight military, naval and Air Force secrecy censorship was clamped down and made mandatory here last night as authorities apprehended two small humanoid beings supposedly discharged at the site of an abandoned warehouse in the south section of Anderson.
The only accounts available stated that the invaders . . . men of approximately three-feet in height and formed like human beings . . . had landed a rocket-type space ship near the abandoned structure. According to reports, ten of the crew of the spaceship landed, but only two of the little men were apprehended. The other eight are believed to be still at large, if they did not perish in the terrific blast of the rocket ship's take-off tubes.
Firemen battled a blaze presumed to have been caused by the landing tubes of the foreign ship and brought it under control with little loss to property.
A strict official censorship was clamped on the entire affair and national authorities are conducting a complete investigation. The two captive beings were rushed to secret laboratories for examination by American scientists. They are articulate, strangely attired in luminous white helmets, dark-textured upper garments and wore oddly luminous trouser-like pantaloons of a substance foreign to earth knowledge.
National guardsmen were called to the scene, along with police of city and county agencies. An intensive search is being made for the eight visitors from space who are believed to be at large in this vicinity. The only pertinent records of the occurrence were recorded by an alert photographer and reporter for The Anderson Herald who "scooped" the significant facts before the rigid, enforced censorship was made. It is believed that the two captive spacemen may have been speeded to Washington for possible interrogation.
Other theories hold that the two tiny human-like beings were taken to the Air Force's Dayton Field, where a complete file has been made on the saucer-seeings claimed by many citizens during the past 18 months.
The entire happening may well presage the visiting of this planet by other and greater forces of these strange creatures. All appearances of the small men are to be reported at once to officials. It is believed that the other eight little men will be rounded up by sundown today. As far as could be determined from fragmentary reports gathered at the scene of the landing, the small men are unarmed and are not believed to be dangerous.
Reports of the flying saucer appearances which have been authentically circulated and recorded during the past two years and of which a file has been maintained by the Air Force at the Dayton, O., base may be proved. Nearly a hundred instances have been recorded of the sighting of the saucer and cigar-shaped interplanetary type craft in all parts of the United States.
The Anderson visitation and possible attempted invasion is the first overt attempt on the part of non-Earth peoples to make a direct and possibly violent attack on this planet. It is unknown what planet the little men arrived from.
2. Selected documents from Air Force Project Blue Book files relating to the Marana AFB incident reported in the April 4, 1952 edition of the Oxnard Press Courier under the headline "Oval Joins Flying Saucers" and in the April 5, 1952 edition of The Age under the headline "Report of Huge "Flying Saucer" are available here.
3. The visit of Robert Ginna to the Air Technical Intelligence Center (ATIC) in Dayton, Ohio is mentioned in Blue Book "Status Report Number 5", dated March 31, 1952. These reports by Captain Ed Ruppelt, chief of the Air Force's Project Blue Book, on the status of Project Blue Book investigations were made monthly and widely distributed to the "brass". The report notes:
Life Article on Unidentified Aerial Objects
Mr. Robert Ginna of the Life Magazine Staff visited ATIC on 3 March 1952 to obtain material for an article which will appear in life on 4 April 1952. He was very familiar with this subject as he has spent a great deal of time in research. The article has been coordinated with Hq USAF.
One interesting aspect of the visit by Mr. Ginna was the fact that Life has information on several sightings by highly qualified observers that were unknown to ATIC. These people, all civilians, had not reported their observations to any military sources, consequently, ATIC did not have the reports. With the exception of these and several more minor reports, ATIC did have information on all of the incidents that he inquired about.
It is believed that Mr. Ginna's contact with the Air Force established an excellent source of material in that Life has representatives all over the world and these people are sending reports to Life as a matter of routine. ATIC will have access to these reports.
4. In a 1952 draft article for Air Intelligence Digest Captain Ed Ruppelt wrote of the "Lubbock Lights"...
Skipping years and many sightings, we arrive at one of the most puzzling cases to date: a series of sightings over Lubbock, Texas. The high professional standing of the persons who made these observations makes this case especially worthy of note. The observers were all professors of the Texas Technical College at Lubbock: W.I. Robinson, Ph.D., in Geology, but also well versed in all fields of science; A.G. Oberg, Ph.D., professor of Physics; and Prof. W.L. Ducker, head of the Petroleum Engineering Department.
On the evening of 25 August 1951, these men were sitting in Dr. Robinson's garden. It was a clear, mid-summer night, and the men were scanning the skies, counting and discussing meteors as they flashed into view when suddenly there appeared, in the northeast, a swiftly moving semi-circle of lights. The savants were astounded by the phenomena and decided they would watch carefully for another appearance of this object or objects, and if it occurred, would attempt to analyze its characteristics.
In about an hour, their watch was rewarded. This time they were ready. One man looked while the others acted as timers. The bluish-green lights were clearly and plainly visible but not brilliant. The individual lights varied in intensity, and each was somewhat larger in appearance than a star. Each of the two flights that night consisted of a series of lights in an accurate V formation which covered about 10° in the sky. The men estimated that the two flights were identical in size, shape, velocity, and course. There was no sound associated with either ghostly passage.
During the week following the first sighting, the original group witnessed five flights between the hours of 9 and 12 p.m. By this time the story had hit the newspapers and several other people had reported similar sightings. The most startling incident occurred when the Lubbock Morning Avalanche printed pictures of the flying "What-Is-Its". These pictures were taken by Carl Hart Jr., an amateur photographer and freshman at Texas Tech. The negatives have been examined by experts of the Photo Laboratory at Wright Air Development Center and cannot be disproved or declared a hoax.
Through the week, the men had discussed their experience. Several characteristics seemed to them outstanding. Perhaps the most amazing was the apparent schedule upon which the objects were operating. The first appearance each night was so close to 9:20 p.m., that observers spoke of it, in railroad parlance, as the "old 9:20". The lights never gradually came into view or gradually disappeared. They were suddenly there -- then, just as suddenly, gone.
The group was confident that the angular velocity of the object was 30° a second -- this they determined from measurements of several flights. Stop watches and protractors were used to measure time and angles.
On 1 September 1951, the original group of three met again in Dr. Robinson's garden and were joined by E.R. Heineman, professor of mathematics, and Dr. E.F. George, professor of Chemical Engineering.
Once again, at about 9:20 p.m., a flight came over. It was similar to previous flights, but rather more irregularly grouped. On through the evening, at fairly regular intervals, four more flights moved across the sky from North to South. And then at 12:17 a.m., the most unusual sighting was observed. This flight passed directly overhead, flying very low, in the general direction of North to South, and was seen by every member of the group.
Dr. Robinson observed that in the case of this flight, an irregularly shaped yellow light appeared in the rear. The formation included dark diffuse areas, and the arc itself quivered or pulsated in the direction of its travel.
Each object had an angular magnitude that would be the equivalent of 12 inches across at a distance of 30 or 40 feet, and in violent agitation.
This was the first sighting that Mr. Heineman, who had been skeptical about the whole thing, made. The sighting was so low and so spectacular that he was really jolted, and apparently showed it, for the group jokingly dubbed it "Heineman's Horror". The flight had the appearance of a group of 12 to 15 pale objects in the shape of a quadrant of a circle, producing a pale-yellow blinking light and moving noiselessly.
The professors claim 12 "official sightings." This is their own term, as they would not recognize any sighting that was not witnessed by at least two of their group. They do not completely accept the photographs taken by Carl Hart, and state that, had they felt it possible, they would have made every effort to take photographs themselves, but that the objects moved too fast. They have also taken into consideration the aerial activity that was taking place over the SW United States at that time -- the much publicized "Green Fireballs". They attempted to tie up the two, but could find no association between the fireballs and the flying objects that they had seen.
5. In that same draft article for Air Intelligence Digest Ruppelt also wrote of the "green fireballs"...
How green are the fireballs?
The reported green fireballs that flashed across the skies of SW United States in great numbers during 1948, '49, and '50 are still a matter of great conjecture. They were thought by some scientists to be meteors. Dr. J. Kaplan of the Scientific Advisory Board is one such scientist, but he qualified his belief: "The daytime 'fireball' incidents are completely baffling. No meteor would persist for as long as thirty minutes. (EDITOR'S NOTE: The daytime incident of 27 March 1949 lasted more than half an hour. This duration is much longer than any recorded genuine meteoric incident.) The characteristics of the nocturnal green fireballs, of relatively the same height and having no sound, are ones which are difficult to observe without very careful instrumentation as to their (height).
Dr. Lincoln La Paz, director of the Institute of Meteorites [sic, should be Meteoritics], University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, made a comprehensive study of the fireballs and felt that they were not meteors. Dr. La Paz stated: "Most of the reports of 'green fireballs' state that they appear to move in horizontal paths, throughout its entire extent, to the plane of the horizon. Such persistent horizontality stands in the sharpest contrast to the downwardly concave paths traversed by genuine meteorites, when these penetrate deeply into the atmosphere of the earth.
"In the case of genuine meteorite falls, with luminous paths terminating even at heights considerably greater than those at which the real paths of the green fireballs are situated, the observed luminous phenomena are always accompanied by extraordinarily violent noises. No noises whatever have been observed in connection with any one of the horizontally-moving green fireballs.
"The anomalous greenish luminous phenomena show a curious association with well-known meteor showers, although none of these annual meteor showers normally produce extremely bright green fireballs. The relationship cited might indicate an attempt to render the green fireballs less conspicuous by causing them to appear only when there is a background of considerable natural meteoric activity."
Much of the material above about both Lubbock and the fireballs were enclosed in double parentheses, with the following note from Ruppelt...
It is suggested that items inclosed in double parenthesis be omitted from the article in order that it might be declassified from restricted to unclassified. In this manner, the article could be used as press release if necessary.
6. In June, 1952, Dr. J. Allen Hynek, astronomer and scientific consultant to the Air Force on the unidentified aerial object phenomenon since 1948, attended a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Victoria, British Columbia. Both during and following the meeting, Hynek surreptitiously interviewed 45 astronomers, and filed a report to Project Blue Book. In that report Hynek included his discussion with Dr. Lincoln LaPaz...
He is the Director of the Institute of Meteoritics at the University of New Mexico, and is cooperative in the extreme. One sighting of his has been described in Life Magazine and also fully in OSI reports. He has made extensive reports about the green fireball sightings in New Mexico in OSI reports also.
The discussion of green fireballs with many astronomers disclosed that most of them were of the opinion that these were natural objects. However, close questioning revealed that they knew nothing of the actual sightings, of their frequency or anything much about them, and therefore cannot be taken seriously. This is characteristic of scientists in general when speaking about subjects which are not in their own immediate field of concern. Dr. La Paz has seen only one green fireball himself, but has been avid in collecting reports on the others. Because his full reports are in the OSI files, only the salient points will be discussed here. It appears that the green fireballs can be characterized by being extremely bright, most of them lighting up the sky in the daytime, estimated magnitude -12, which is extremely bright. They appear to come in bunches and at one time 10 were observed in 13 days. No noise is associated with them despite their brightness. The light appears to homogenous, and their light curve resembles a square wave, that is, it comes on abruptly, remains constant while burning, and goes out exceedingly abruptly, as though it is snapped out by a push-button. They leave no trails or trains. As to their color, La Paz is aware of the fact that other meteors have a green color, but he insists that this is a different green, corresponding to the green line in the copper spectrum (5218 Angstrom units). These objects generally move in a preferential north-south, south-north direction.
If these data are correct, that is, if this many objects actually were seen, all extremely bright, all having this particular green color, all exhibiting no noise, all showing a preferential direction, all being homogenous in light intensity, all snapping out very quickly, and all leaving no trails, then we can say with assurance that these were not astronomical objects. In the first place, any object as bright as this should have been reported from all over the world. This does not mean that any one object could have been seen all over the world, but if the earth in its orbit encountered, for some strange reason, a group of very large meteors, there is no reason that they should all show up in New Mexico. Besides, copper is not a plentiful element in meteors, and the typical fireball goes from bright to very bright to bright and then fades out fairly fast, often breaking into many parts. They frequently leave a trail of smoke in the daytime and of luminescence at night. It is recommended that the OSI reports be obtained, and that the sightings of these fireballs be examined in detail.
If the data as reported by La Paz are correct, then we do have a strange phenomena here indeed.
7. In that same report from his June, 1952 surreptitious interviews with astronomers, Hynek also included his discussion with Clyde W. Tombaugh...
He has made two sightings, the first of which is the one reported in Life magazine and the second was reported to me. The details can be obtained by sending him a questionnaire, as he is willing to cooperate. Briefly, while at Telescope no. 3 at White Sands, he observed an object of -6 magnitude (four times brighter than the planet Venus at its brightest) travelling from the zenith to the southern horizon in about three seconds. The object executed the same maneuvers as the nighttime luminous object which was reported in Life magazine. No sound was associated with either of the sightings.
Mr. Tombaugh is in charge of optics design and rocket tracking at White Sands Proving Ground. He said that if he is requested officially, which can be done by a letter to the Commanding General, Flight Determination Laboratory, White Sands Proving Ground, Las Cruces, New Mexico, he will be able to put his telescopes at White Sands at the disposal of the Air Force. He can have observers alerted and ready to take photographs should some object appear. I strongly recommend that this letter be sent.
8. The anonymous astronomer from "Incident 2" in the Life magazine article would later be revealed to be Dr. Lincoln LaPaz.
9. In a speech given to the Hypervelocity Impact Conference Banquet at Elgin Air Force Base in April, 1960, Dr. J. Allen Hynek spoke of a conversation he had with Charles B. Moore, the aerologist who reported an anomalous sighting in connection with the launch of a Skyhook balloon as revealed in Life magazine's "Incident 3"...
The Charles Moore case is of some interest in itself because of the high technical qualifications of the observer. He was preparing a site for the launching of a large test balloon at White Sands on April 24, 1949. He was checking on cross-winds in the valley between two mountain ranges and had launched a small weather balloon, watching it in a theodolite, keeping it on the cross-hairs. He had a new chap on the team who wanted experience in tracking balloons; and so Moore turned the theodolite to him, cautioning him to keep it on and not lose it, because Moore didn't want to waste a balloon. Shortly after, Moore looked up to check the balloon by unaided eye and thought he saw it moving off to the east. He yelled at the chap that he had lost the balloon, but the chap said "Nope – it's still on the cross-wires." Moore looked and confirmed this, and then rapidly switched the theodolite to the strange object, catching it after it had "passed through" the sun. It was elliptical, two or three times as long as it was wide, moving along its major axis, and covered the entire sky from the southwest to the northeast in 60 seconds. Five others saw it and confirmed Moore's sighting. Moore checked his refocus of the theodolite and found it had been focused for infinity. In my talks with him, he has completely ruled out the possibility of aircraft, particularly since it covered the sky in 60 seconds. It went down to an elevation of 25 degrees and then just before it disappeared, which it seemed to do quickly, it rose in elevation by 5 degrees, as checked by the theodolite.
This sighting has been classified as a mirage by some "experts" but the physics in this case certainly escapes me. Moore then launched another balloon and tracked it throughout its course to 90,000 feet. At no level were the winds from the southwest, so a balloon is ruled out.
11. In June, 1951, Captain Vinther, whose sighting was listed in the Life magazine article as "Incident 7", wrote a first-hand account for Flying magazine...
I WAS taxiing out for take-off at Sioux City, I'm. on Mid-Continent Airlines scheduled Flight 9 of January 20, 1951, when the tower asked if I would investigate a very bright light west of the field. I told him that what he saw was a star.
"No," the tower said, "I see what you mean but this is higher than that -- about 8,000 feet."
Looking higher, I saw the light moving from north to south, west of the field and fairly high. I agreed to investigate it.
The crew of the Mid-Continent Airlines DC-3 that night in addition to myself, included Co-pilot James E. Bachmeier, a lieutenant commander in the Naval Air Reserves (who returned to active duty March 1, as commanding officer of a supply squadron), veteran of World War II in the South Pacific where encounters with Jap night fighters were commonplace. Bachmeier had flown nearly four years with Mid-Continent and had a total flight time of over 6,000 hours.
Immediately after a northwest take-off, a left climbing turn was started, following the left-hand circle of the observed light. The radius of the circle of the light was at least two miles -- possibly more -- outside the circle made by the DC-3.
Southeast of the field the strange lights were blinked five or six times. The rest of the time they were steady. When we reached a point east of the field (the DC-3 was headed northeast), we observed a change in the object. By the time we realized what the change was it dived over our nose at about a 160° angle to the heading of the DC-3 and 200 feet above it.
That brought the object down beyond the left wing of the airliner, and then came the strangest part of the whole encounter. Instead of running by, as any aircraft will when met nearly head on, the object abruptly (as quickly as the heads of the pilots could be turned) was flying in the same direction as the airliner -- and at the same altitude and the same speed! Here it was flying formation with us about 200 feet away.
And the object was big. We estimated the size as being anywhere from that of a B-29 to half again as big. The time was 8:30 on an exceptional clear moon-light night, so we got an excellent silhouette view. There was a definite fuselage and wing configuration. The fuselage was cigar-shaped. The wing was further forward than a B-29 wing, and no engine nacelles or jet pods could be seen. The wing had no sweepback, being perfectly straight. It had a high aspect ratio like a glider wing.
I couldn't tell whether the object turned around or just reversed direction. We didn't see any jet glow or exhaust flame. As the object dived across our nose, the bright white light observed by the tower could be seen at a slight angle -- not in full force as it would have been head on. As nearly as could be determined, this light was located on the bottom of the fuselage. It was either in a "tunnel" mounting that blocked the view, or was turned off as it came toward us. From take off to the time of this run toward the airliner we were able to see a red form of navigation light.
There was insufficient light to determine the probable material from which the object was made or if there were any markings on it.
About the time this object was flying on the wing of the DC-3, a Cessna 140 made an emergency landing at Sioux City and parked while the object was still in sight. After the object was lost to sight a Bonanza arrived from the east-northeast. These were the only other aircraft in the vicinity at the time.
The object flew formation on the left wing of the DC-3 for four or five seconds or more, then started dropping down and under the fuselage of our aircraft. I reduced power and made a left turn to the west over the Sioux City field, attempting to keep the object in view. After losing sight of the object under the belly, we made a right turn in an attempt to regain sight of it, but no further contact was made. We continued our scheduled flight to Omaha, Neb.
In addition to the two Mid-Continent Airlines pilots, three other persons are known to have seen the object. One was a passenger aboard the flight who happened to be looking out the window at the time. The other two were Chief Controller John Williams of Sioux City Tower, and his fellow controller, whose name I don't know.
The passenger, incidentally, is an aide to Col. Matthew Thompson, USAF, at Offutt field, Omaha, Nebr., who is assigned to investigation of strange aircraft.
In May, 1956, Captain George T. Gregory, then head of Project Blue Book, arranged a preview of the upcoming docu-drama "UFO" before it was released to theaters. Gregory then issued a report with talking points to refute the film. Of Captain Vinther's experience, Gregory wrote...
Sioux City Case, Iowa : This was erroneously commented upon as resembling the "Chiles-Whitted" case (See par. 3e of preliminary report). After a second review of the motion picture version, it has been determined that this UFO sighting made by two airline pilots, Vinther and Bachmeier, after their take-off from the Sioux City airport was on the night of 20 January 1951. The "Chiles-Whitted" and "Vinther-Bachmeier" cases resemble each other. Both airline pilot crews observed "a long, slender cigar shaped object." In the Sioux City sighting, the object was described as "one-half times the size of a B-29 fuselage, lights similar to running lights being blinked -- and a bright light similar to a landing light visible for a short period..." Our comments, on the bans [sic] of UFO records: The description appears to describe a B-36 as seen from another aircraft at night. It could have been a B-36, slightly off course, orbiting over the airport, making a visual check in the vicinity for training purposes, or other similar reasons. It was determined by ATIC that at the time (1951) SAC did not maintain records of their training flights within the ZI.
This is a Mid-Continent Airlines DC-3. Its length was 65 feet and its wingspan 95 feet...
The picture below is a comparison of a B-29 and a B-36. The smaller B-29 at a length of 99 feet and a wingspan of 141 feet is a third-again larger than a DC-3. Dwarfing it is the B-36 at a length of 162 feet and a wingspan of 230 feet, more than twice the size of the Douglas DC-3. This is the aircraft Captain Gregory claimed was "slightly off course" which confused both the pilots and the tower control men as it buzzed the DC-3 then reversed course to fly parallel before zipping under the DC-3's fuselage.
As of 1969, a misidentification of conventional aircraft was the official Air Force explanation, and remains so today.
Selected documents from Air Force Project Blue Book files relating to the Sioux City report are available here.
12. Selected documents from Air Force Project Blue Book files relating to the Korean reports told under "Incident 9" are available here.
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