in the news 1952
Above: One of three photos taken by Metropolitan Group news photographer Wallace Litwin on September 20, 1952 while aboard the USS Roosevelt during Operation Mainbrace. Litwin's story can be read in the "notes" section of this entry, and stories on Operation Mainbrace are included below.
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...
SEPTEMBER 21, 1952:
Cedar Rapids, Iowa Gazette - 21 Sep 52
JUNIOR SPACEMEN are in style these days. Here is Billy Hacker of Dayton, Ohio, with some of the equipment the small fry find in the toy stores. He uses a flying saucer gun to cow a group of little men who have been attacking from out in deep space. The antennae on his radar cap helped warn him of their presence just in time. And he got to the right spot with the aid of the propeller on his cap which is supposed to be powered by an atomic coil. Billy and his contemporaries also play with space ships and a wide variety of atomic guns, complete with flashing lights and buzzers. Spacemen robots also come in varied forms as do rockets. Puzzles and games must have space and atomic themes to satisfy the modern youngsters who comb toy department counters.
Sydney, Australia Sunday Herald - 21 Sep 52
Ten R.A.F. Men See "Flying Saucer" In NATO Exercise
LONDON, Sept. 20 -- Ten R.A.F. men saw a "flying-saucer" enter part of the NATO manoeuvres in Yorkshire to-day.
The Royal Air Force station at Topcliffe, York- shire, reported to Exercise Headquarters to-day that at least 10 officers and crew of a Shackleton aircraft saw a silver object, circular in shape, appear five miles behind a Meteor fighter flying at 15,000 feet. The object maintained a slow forward speed before descending with a swinging pendulum motion.
When the Meteor turned back towards base the object appealed to follow.
It then began a rotary motion about its own axis, suddenly accelerated at incredible speed in a westerly direction, but later turned to a south-easterly course.
R.A.F. officers and men who saw it said its movements were not identifiable with anything they had seen in the air.
The acceleration was greater than that of a shooting star, they said. The incident lasted from 15 to 20 seconds.
An R.A.F. spokesman would not say whether the report is being regarded seriously or not. "Reports are being investigated," he said.
Some observers of the incident believe the object might have been a parachute or cowling from the Meteor aircraft, but none is reported to have landed in the vicinity.
Lowell Sun, Massachusetts Sun - 21 Sep 52
Flying Saucer Mystery in War Games
LONDON, Sept. 20 -- The Allied mainbrace war games testing the newest in naval-air practices turned up a flying saucer mystery today.
It was taken seriously by some, scoffed at by others. The saucer report was made formally at a briefing in Scotland to U.S. and chief of operation mainbrace.
The saucer got a lot of attention since it was reported by six British airmen over the area where the western Allied force and 80,000 men are practicing. Russia, in a backseat position, is interested in the maneuvers.
Officers at the Pitreavie, Scotland, base of mainbrace said the saucer story was being treated seriously.
The British Air ministry in London pooh-poohed it. A ministry spokesman said the airmen probably saw a searchlight being operated in daytime producing an optical illusion by reflected light.
The six airmen said they saw the intruding object careen through the skies yesterday, change course over the maneuver area, then swoosh off at a speed faster than a shooting star.
Long Beach, California Independent Press-Telegram - 21 Sep 52
Report of Flying Saucer Jolts Exercise Mainbrace
OSLO, Norway -- U.S. Marines sailed in World War II landing craft Saturday night toward a landing on the Danish Coast in the second phase of a giant mock struggle for Scandinavia that is being staged by eight North Atlantic Powers.
A new element entered the Exercise Mainbrace Saturday when operation headquarters recorded a "flying saucer" scare. RAF airmen based at Topcliffe, Eng., said they saw a silver colored circular object while taking part in the maneuvers. A British Air Ministry spokesman said the "object could have been a meteorological balloon."
But U.S. Adm. Lynde McCormick was briefed on the report at his headquarters at Pitreavie, Scotland, and authorities there said the reports were "being treated seriously."
The Marines were scheduled to swarm ashore on a Northern Danish beach at 2 a.m. today. They will reinforce friendly forces ashore.
The 2000 Leathernecks of the reinforced Third Battalion of the Second Regiment from Camp Lejeune, N.C., were supported by a Blue armada of light carriers.
The U.S. Carpelotti, a fast destroyer escort, carried a contingent of frogmen, underwater demolition experts, toward the landing area.
An "enemy" force of Orange submarines, torpedo boats, frigates, minelayers and destroyers was reported assembling.
AID RUSHED TO NORSE
Exercise Mainbrace, biggest combined air, sea and land maneuvers since World War II, pre-supposes that Gen. Matthew B. Ridgeway's North Atlantic Command in Europe is hard-pressed to save Europe from a mythical invader, and has called on U.S. Adm. Lynde McCormick's NATO Sea Command in the North Atlantic for aid.
In the first phase of the maneuver, the Naval forces demonstrated they could rush effective aid to Norway. The second phase is aimed at showing how the Danish Peninsula could be kept from being knocked out by an enemy in wartime.
Denmark is of strategic importance to control of the Skagerrak and Kattegat Straits and the Kiel Canal, sole passages to the Baltic which Russia regards almost as her private lake.
Nearly 200 ships and 80,000 men are engaged in the exercise.
Great Britain (national) Sunday Dispatch - 21 Sep 52
Here are five of the R.A.F. men who saw the Flying Saucer. Left to right standing: L.A.C. Grime, Sgt. T.B. Dewys, Master Sigs. A.E. Thompson, Flight-Lieut M. Cybulski, Flight-Lieut. J.W. Kilburn
What Intruded Into 'Exercise Mainbrace'?
'Saucer' Chased R.A.F. Jet Plane
Say 6 Airmen
NOT Smoke-Ring Or Weather Balloon, Says Pilot
By Sunday Dispatch Reporter
SERIOUS investigation was being made last night by the R.A.F. into the mystery of a silvery-white object that chased a Meteor jet-plane over Yorkshire during "Exercise Mainbrace."
It was seen by two R.A.F. officers and three aircrew as they stood near Coastal Command Shackleton Squadron H.Q. at Topcliffe.
They had just landed after a flight and were watching a Meteor coming into land at the neighbouring Dishforth R.A.F. station.
One of them, Flight Lieut. John W. Kilburn, 31, of Egremont, Cumberland, then spotted "something different from anything I have ever seen in 3,700 hours flying in a variety of conditions."
He told me last night:
"It was 10:53 a.m. on Friday. The Meteor was coming down from about 5,000ft. The sky was clear. There was sunshine and unlimited visibility.
"The Meteor was crossing from East to West when I noticed the white object in the sky.
This object was silver and circular in shape, about 10,000ft. up some five miles astern of the aircraft. It appeared to be travelling at a lower speed than the Meteor but was on the same course.
[Remainder of article unavailable.]
Brownwood, Texas Bulletin - 21 Sep 52
Formation Of 8 Glowing Objects Sighted By Couple At Drive-In
Flying saucer fever hit Brownwood again Saturday night as Mr. and Mrs. John Hopper, 408 West Anderson, reported seeing a formation of about eight glowing objects while they were attending the movie at Camp Bowie Drive-In.
Mrs. Hopper who spotted the objects first called her husband's attention to the phenomenon.
Mrs. Hopper said she first saw the objects about 10 p.m. and observed them three times between 10 and 10:15. She described them as
having a yellow glow.
Mrs. Hopper said she hoped other people at the drive-in theater saw them too and would phone the Bulletin so people wouldn't think she and her husband were "crazy."
"If I hadn't really seen them, I sure wouldn't be calling you," Mrs. Hopper said.
Clovis, New Mexico News Journal - 21 Sep 52
Flying Dishes Lack Mustard
HOBBS -- If flying saucers are real, W.W. Hamilton of Hobbs reports he's seen something to serve on them.
Overhead Friday night, Hamilton says, he saw what "looked like a revolving wiener."
It was a hundred or more feet long and rotated on a central axis, moving across the sky rapidly, he reported.
But no mustard.
Lima, Ohio, News - 21 Sep 52
Flying Saucer Reports Continue To Pour Into Ohio Northern from Widespread Areas
ADA, Sept. 20 -- Letters regarding the sighting of flying saucers have been received in recent days at Ohio Northern university from persons in Canada, Virginia, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. The university is conducting its Project A experiment in an effort to determine the facts behind such sightings thruout the world.
Texas and Chicago still lead in number of sighting's reported. ONU has received requests from two societies that are investigating saucers to send them information as ONU gets it and they will send data to ONU in exchange. The university wishes to investigate the authenticity of these societies before releasing their findings to them.
The standard description so far seems to be an object which is disc-shaped, usually flat on the under side that rises toward a round dome in the center on the upper side. It seems to be one-fourth or one-fifth as thick on the outer edges as at the center where the dome is located.
These descriptions have come largely from persons who were close enough to observe the details mentioned.
Sightings have been received from persons seeing the saucer at low altitude and described take-off methods.
THE STORIES have all coincided in that the objects seem to move upward, not gradually, but in steps or levels to a certain altitude and then they go upward with tremendous speed.
The university is still in need of more sightings and data before they can do any extensive research. Data forms are being sent to Australia and Germany to persons who have made sightings in those areas. One newspaper has been very cooperative arranging to send ONU sightings reported to them and to arrange for interviews if desired.
Lima, Ohio News - 21 Sep 52
Saucer Discussion To Follow Luncheon
The flying saucer phenomena will be the subject of discussion Wednesday at the noon luncheon meeting of the Lima Lions club in the Barr hotel.
Speaker will be Dr. Warren Hickman, dean of Ohio Northern university and chairman of that school's "Project A."
The project was set up to study the phenomena. Dr. Hickman will discuss findings and future plans. Ohio Northern was the first university to set up a special department to study the "saucers."
SEPTEMBER 22, 1952:
Washington D.C. Star - 22 Sep 52
Fairfax County Has Visitation From Mysterious Balls of Fire
Mysterious balls of fire "bright enough to light the ground" were viewed over Fairfax and Centreville, Va., early today.
Four Fairfax County policemen sighted the objects when they went to investigate a report of a resident of near Centreville that she had seen strange lights in the sky.
Police Pvt. Julian Burke described the sight this way:
"They came out of the clouds like headlights, then brightened up all at one time."
There appeared to be three or four bright objects, he said, "going in and out of the clouds."
With him were Sergt. John Wahl and Pvts. Richard Lloyd and Douglas. They had gone to investigate "several big balls of fire" reported by Mrs. F. L. Hazelwood of Route 645, about a mile south of Centreville.
The objects were visible for more than three hours, the policeman said. They were viewed between 12:50 a.m. and 4 a.m.
Pvt. Burke said over the Centreville area the objects seemed fairly close to the earth and "bright enough to light the ground." Later, when the policemen returned to Fairfax, the objects appeared to be directly above the police station and high in the air.
Officials in the control tower at Washington National Airport, apprised of the report, scanned the skies and their radar screen. They said they saw nothing. An airplane was in the area at the time, they said. But, they added, this was for a short time only.
Andrews Air Force Base officials reported no unusual "blips", on the radar screen there.
Fort Belvoir, where Army physicists have created glowing rings in bell jars, said no experiments were being conducted early today. The engineer post also ruled out the searchlight possibility, asserting that its lights had not been in use since Friday night.
The Fairfax County police said that when the objects last were sighted about 4 a.m. they appeared to be headed toward the District.
The first of numerous calls to police was made by Mrs. Hazelwood, who complained her yard was filled with bright lights and a vile odor.
Mrs. Hazelwood's daughter Marie told Fairfax officers the odor made her mother ill and was bad enough to make her father get up and go out to see if anything nearby was burning.
Arlington, Virginia Daily - 22 Sep 52
'Bright Objects' Are Reported Over Fairfax
Mysterious objects in Fairfax skies were observed for three hours last night by Fairfax police officers and a woman near Centreville.
"It beats anything I ever saw," said Pvt. Julian Burke. "l don't know what they were. It wasn't my imagination because other officers saw them and we were all dead sober."
The "flying saucers" were reported by Mrs. F.L. Hazelwood, who lives on Route 645, about one mile South of Centreville. Pvt. Burke, investigating the report, said he watched the objects from Mrs. Hazelwood's house for an hour.
He said he saw four at one time. He described them as round, orange-colored objects, about as big as a three-gallon bucket. He said it was very foggy and the objects appeared to be darting in and out of clouds.
He said when he first arrived at the Centreville home the objects were closest and appeared to be about 2,000 feet away. In his description, the officer said the balls would appear first as a small light and then get big as they seemed to get closer. They disappeared in the same way, he said.
When the objects would disappear from sight, he said, they still made a white light for a while like a car light shining through the fog, except that they were "very bright."
He said Sgt. John Wahl also came out to investigate after he radioed back his observations. Burke said he and Wahl watched the objects together for about 20 minutes.
They returned to the police station about 2 a.m. There, he said, they saw another similar object. This time it also was watched by Pvt. Marvin Harrel, desk officer on duty at the time, and two other officers on the night shift, Pvts. Dunn and Lloyd.
Meanwhile, police had notified the control tower at National Airport of the objects shortly after 1 a.m. The tower reported that they could not pick up anything on the radar scopes, nor could they see anything. A Civil Aeronautics spokesman said an American Airline flight passed over Springfield in Fairfax County about the time the "saucers" were reported but the plane couldn't make the type light described.
The Naval Observatory in Washington this morning said it had no reports of any unusual lights in the sky last night. A spokesman said a meteor would probably be an orange color but that meteors can be seen only for a few seconds and wouldn't act like those described by police.
Burke said the object seen at the police station disappeared in the direction of Washington. After the last one had disappeared police reported the objects to the Department of Defense on instructions from the airport control tower.
Mrs. Hazelwood says the saucer had a strange smell that made her husband think something was cooking in the backyard.
West Palm Beach, Florida Times - 22 Sep 52
Scientists See Flying "Object" In Everglades
An object which became too animated to be the harvest moon it at first was believed to be became the focal point of several Everglades Experiment Station officials and their wives early today.
When sighted by one of the women about 4:20 am in the southeast sky, it was at first thought to be a "very bright harvest moon."
However, this person realized quickly that it was too bright, and also much out of place in the sky at that time of morning to be a "harvest moon."
It was about this time the viewer realized it was a round object, with blinking lights around its lower part.
Although there was a ground haze in the area, the person reported the lights flashed red, green and amber, blinking alternately.
The sphere moved up and down and from side to side, remaining in the southeast throughout, and being watched about 25 minutes before disappearing in the same direction. A few minutes after its disappearance, it reappeared again, but not as near, one observer saying it "looked four or five times larger than a star."
However, at the distance, the lights, still blinking alternately appeared red, green and white, the amber missing and the white an addition.
It moved from side to side, also up and down, staying in its southeast position about 15 minutes before finally disappearing for good. Five persons in all witnessed the "flying object," the others being called by the first to observe it, but none was informed of what was seen in the sky.
The group is well known at the Station, located on Six Mile Rd., three miles from Belle Glade. None wished use of his name.
Yuma, Arizona Daily Sun - 22 Sep 52
Reports Seeing Flying Saucers Over Yuma Today
Mrs. J.T. Crowe of Winterhaven reported sighting three "flying saucers" flying above Yuma early today, traveling from north to south at terrific speed.
Mrs. Crowe said she and her husband, together with Mrs. Martie Peterek and Rev. and Mrs. David were standing beside a car parked on Madison avenue at 12:10 a.m. when they saw the "saucers". She said the objects looked like oyster shells outlined in white and surrounded by flames. They were directly overhead and flying rather low. There was no sound, she said.
Fes, Morocco Le Courrier du Maroc - 22 Sep 52
Report Strange Object Over Tangier And Fes
On 21 September 1952, at 1815 hours, many people at a beach 17 kilometers from Tangier saw toward the south a luminous disk of a diameter close to that of the setting sun, flying horizontally from east to west. After holding its course for about 12 seconds, the disk, which looked like a brightly illuminated metal object, suddenly emitted two great streaks of flames and disappeared.
At 1820 hours, a strange object was also seen in the sky over Fes, French Morocco, flying at high speed from east to west and leaving behind a luminous white trail.
Casablanca, Morocco Maroc-Presse - 22 Sep 52
Thousands Witness Saucer Over Morocco And Tangier
On 21 September 1952, at about 1820 hours, an unusual object, possibly a saucer, flew at great speed over Casablanca. Shortly afterwards, about 15 telephone calls were received from local residents, and our Tangier correspondent called to say that he had seen the object going from east to west at 1815 hours (about 2-5 minutes before it flew over Casablanca!). Also, two observers in the Nefifik River valley were able to time the passage of the object with a chronometer; it was then 1817 hours, and the object was coming from the direction of Rabat, traveling from east to west.
Some of the reports gave the following details about the object: luminous, cigar-shaped, and giving off a silvery smoke trail; a luminous, whitish-green globe ending in a long cone and flying about 700 feet up, the same as a plane which flew by at the same time (outside of Casablanca); and a flaming, globe-shaped mass trailing white smoke in puffs, as though puff followed an explosion -- the object stopped short for a moment and revolved on itself, emitting a shower of sparks about its cone.
About 6,000 spectators at a boxing match in Casablanca saw the object pass over the arena. In Louis Gentil, numerous persons saw it at 1818 hours flying from east to west. In Marrakech, it made its appearance for 5 seconds at 1830 hours, when it was clearly seen by three persons who described it as a meteor, again traveling from east to west.
Rabat, Morocco L'Echo du Morac - 22 Sep 52
Believe Object Over Morocco Only A Meteor
On 21 September 1952, at 1818 hours, the mysterious flying object seen in all Morocco and beyond was observed over Rabat. It seems more likely, however, that this time, it was a meteor, because the trajectory of the object was given as rectilinear, it did not maneuver in the way saucers are said to do, and its entire body was incandescent, which is not true of flying machines.
The object was variously described as an orange-colored ball of fire, an arrow, or a cone-shaped object trailing a bright green-blue cloud of smoke, heading from east to west and parallel to the coast, and moving at the speed of a convention plane at an altitude of about 1,000 meters. The object was visible for only a few seconds. After it passed a thin, white trail of smoke remained visible for about 5 minutes.
SEPTEMBER 23, 1952:
Washington, D.C. Post - 23 Sep 52
Balls of Fire Spotted in Sky By Virginia Family and Police
A Centreville, Va., family saw several mysterious balls of fire over Fairfax County early yesterday and the phenomenon was seen by county police who made an official report.
Mrs. Stella Hazelwood said she saw the objects, variously colored orange, red and blue and about the size of an automobile headlight, bouncing in the cloudy sky above her home shortly before 1 a.m. yesterday.
Her husband, F.L. Hazelwood, and two daughters, Marie, 15, and Dorothy, 18, saw the spectacle too. Mrs. Hazelwood called police.
Pvt. Julian Burke was dispatched, and radioed his verification. Sergt. John A. Wahl, head of the midnight shift, went to the Hazelwood home and saw the objects.
Burke reported the objects were the size of 12-quart buckets and appeared to be 2000 feet high. He saw four. Mrs. Hazelwood saw six or seven.
Wahl said one of the objects hovered in the sky for a few moments, then rose rapidly into the sky, trailing a blue flame.
Police said one of the objects shot off in the direction of Washington.
Police officially reported the incident to National Airport at 1:15 a.m. but no "blips" were spotted on radar.
Sydney, Australia Morning Herald - 23 Sep 52
R.A.F. Sift "Saucer" Reports
LONDON, Sept. 22 -- R.A.F. experts are studying reports from 10 experienced officers and men who reported seeing a "flying saucer" over a Yorkshire airfield on Saturday.
They described with almost identical details the "Saucer's" appearance and behaviour during the 15 or 20 seconds it remained in view.
They said it was a circular silver object which travelled slowly before suddenly accelerating with incredible speed.
A "flying saucer" was also reported to have flown over Gothenburg, west Sweden, on Friday night.
Two men said they saw a noiseless, brightly shining object with a phosphorescent tail moving at great speed across the sky at about 6,500 feet.
In central Sweden on September 13, a former Air Force flier, Mr. Ture Innala, reported that he had seen a "snowplough-shaped cloud with smoke bubbling from its tail" streak across the sky at colossal speed.
He said it dropped a "blue-green shimmering plate, which changed course and disappeared equally as fast in the opposite direction."
His wife also saw the object.
Kingsport, Tennessee Times - 23 Sep 52
Astronomer Calls Saucers 'Nonsense'
ROME -- Prof. Giuseppe Armellini, director of the Rome Astronomical Observatory, caught what was reported to be a "flying saucer" in his telescope Sunday night and says "It's all a lot of nonsense."
He happened to observe something which set scores of Rome residents to calling their newspapers.
"They are simply balls of heat lightning," he announced.
Lumberton, North Carolina Robesonian - 23 Sep 52
Another 'Saucer' Traced
At last, an astronomer has spotted one of those glowing objects in the sky that have been reported us "flying saucers." Prof. Giuseppe Armellini, director of the Rome Astronomical Observatory, was looking through a telescope and saw some balls of heat lightning. About the same time, a number of people called Rome newspapers to report seeing "saucers" in the sky. Putting his observations and the reports of the people together, the professor declared the "saucers" were merely heat lightning.
This does not necessarily prove that all "flying saucers" that have been reported have been heat lightning, although it does indicate strongly that that's what Roman "saucers" were. Plenty of other "saucer" reports have been traced to stars, meteors, weather balloons and lights on the ground reflected against an overcast sky.
The report from Rome does not, in itself, disprove the existence of "flying saucers." But it gives definite evidence that a glowing object identified by an astronomer as a ball of heat lightning can be mistaken for a "saucer," and suggests that other objects might similarly be called "saucers" if their true identity were not known to be observer.
Casablanca, Morocco Maroc-Presse - 23 Sep 52
Pilot Gets Close View Of Saucer For Brief Interval
The pilot of a tourist plane reports that on 21 September 1952, he flew for 10 seconds and about 50 meters in the same direction as the flying saucer so widely observed that day. This former military pilot, whose name is Creze, answered specific questions put to him and gave the following information:
As he was preparing to land at an airfield in Casablanca, at 1825 hours, he noticed the strange object about 30 meters to the left of his plane (a ground mechanic later verified this, as he saw a luminous object fly between himself and the plane). It was flying horizontally from east to west, along the same line of flight as that maintained by Creze. The latter was doing 220 kilometers an hour at the time, at an altitude of 450 meters, and the object was going about twice as fast. He motioned to his passenger, who saw it too. It looked like a bright blue-green flame and had an oblong cigar-like shape. He heard no noise coming from it. After it passed the plane, it disappeared in the direction of the sea. The pilot did not attempt to pursue it, fearing the same fate as that of the US pilot Captain Mantell.
That same evening, in Azemmour, French Morocco, a French couple and their farm workers heard a loud explosion as the strange flying object passed by. This is the first report we have of any sound heard from such objects. Other reports were received from Fes, Meknes, and Safi, where in each case the sighting was said to have occurred at 1820 hours.
Long Beach, California Press Telegram - 23 Sep 52
Strange Submarines Appear Again
Attention will be diverted from flying saucers for the moment while the public becomes excited over the reported appearance of an unidentified submarine off the east coast. Obviously it could not have been a vessel delivering tax-free liquor to United Nations personnel, because foreigners sent here on UN missions are permitted to bring grog in on regular ships.
The story is a bit late in getting in the news, considering the length of the cold war. During the last war German submarines were reported almost daily in the western Atlantic. Later it turned out that many of these reports were correct. Details of the story follow the usual pattern. A coast guardsman saw the vessel about five miles off shore. It was cruising on the surface in broad daylight, apparently not concerned over being seen. After a few minutes, the guardsman said, it "went that away."
Planes and ships sent out immediately found no trace of the sub, nor did the man who spotted it through binoculars distinguish any name, number of other identification.
It could have been an amphibious flying saucer at that. If a flying saucer, shaped like a submarine, scares the bejabbers out of the residents of an east coast town in the near future, that is undoubtedly what it was.
Harlingen, Texas Valley Morning Star - 23 Sep 52
By Whitney Bolton
An old hiker, familiar with the trails and byways of West Virginia, it never struck me as a likely place for visitors from Mars, etc., to settle down and scare the folks.
But out of Sutton comes a story which I must say the newspapers seem to have dropped like a hot potato and which, if followed up by even the most elementary investigation, seems to offer the Air Force a balanced chance of getting somewhere in its suddenly cozy quest for interplanetary travel information.
The United Press quotes Mrs. Kathleen May, of Flatwood [sic, should be Flatwoods], a settlement near Sutton, of having led six children to a hilltop to investigate reports that a flying saucer had landed there. The eldest child was a National Guardsman, 17, and the youngest was 10 years old.
At the crest of the hill the young Guardsman saw something move in a tree and turned his flashlight on it. To his, her and the other children's mutual horror they saw a green-skinned figure "ten feet tall" which duck-walked toward them in such a menacing way that all seven ran like deer, screaming and being nauseated by the "over-powering odor" emanating from what the UP calls The Thing.
All right. Let's get down to cases. Who first reported the flying saucer in that area? Identify the individual who told it to Mrs. May. If that individual had it second-hand, make him tell from whom he heard it, and, if necessary, trace it all the way back through whatever number of individuals are necessary in order to reach the origin of the report. Having found that person, ask him: (a) Did he report it to the State Police? If not, why not? Did this originator of the report actually see an unusual aircraft land behind the hill? What hill? (b) Have him lead responsible civil and Air Force authorities to the exact hill and spot, and have these persons examine every inch of that spot and nearby territory.
The next obvious step is to cross-examine Mrs. May and the six minor, including careful questioning of the young Guardsman who carried and used the flashlight, saw the figure, who was frightened by it and who, like Mrs. May, was made violently ill by it. The UP cuts no corners in its story. It doesn't say: "Mrs. May, reportedly scared and sick from her alleged experience . . . " It says straight out: "Mrs. May, scared and sick from her experience . . . "
If the UP is as jealous of accuracy as it used to be and, hopefully, so far as I know still is, it must explain this unequivocal statement that Mrs. May was frightened and ill as a direct result of this exact, unalterable experience. If the UP cannot back up that flat statement, then it must, in its own interests as a news gathering agency, issue a retraction and withdraw its support of the story.
It is interesting to me, and I certainly assume to literally millions of others, to pin this story down. It has too much to offer to be fluffed off. There had to have been a saucer report of sufficient weight to lead those people to a definite hill in the dark. There had to be something to make at least the two eldest of the seven violently and patently ill. If they were not ill, the UP had no right firmly to say that they were. Finally, a duck-walking creature 10 feet tall had to have left some traces of itself, indentations in the earth, marks of some kinds. If it was in a tree when first seen, the leaves and bark will show traces.
If this is one more genuine appearance of mystifying individuals and their weird aircraft, suddenly and quickly hushed up by the Air Force, then that ought to be disclosed, too. If these things are real, the Air Force has no right to make them secret. The last I heard we were still a civilian democracy and not a military dictatorship, although the line sometimes between is hard to find these curious days.
1. On October 2, 1952, a letter was sent to Major Dewey Fournet at the Air Force Directorate of Intelligence under the letterhead of the "Metropolitan Sunday Newspapers, Inc." of New York City, forwarding "three Ansco transparencies" of photos shot by Wallace Litwin aboard the USS Roosevelt during Operation Mainbrace. The letter included "a quote from Litwin's letter of yesterday describing the circumstances surrounding the shooting of these pictures", which was quoted as follows:
On September twentieth, at a few minutes after four p.m., I was standing on the forward flight deck of the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt, biggest carrier in the world. With me, at the time, was Lt. Robt. M. Greer, helicopter pilot. It was a bright day and there were occasional clouds in a very blue sky. As we were talking, I saw this round object about five hundred or a thousand feet in the air, directly above the after end of the ship. I shouted something to Greer and ran aft a bit to shoot it with a bit of the ship's 'island' in the picture to establish where. I had time to take a meter reading and three exposures before the rapidly rising thing was out of sight. The weather man man [sic] aboard sent a balloon up at three thirty, and says it rose up and out of sight in the overcast in about fifty seconds. This was not it. The shots were in color.
The next day there was an item on the teletype as follows…
At this point Litwin repeats from the news stories datelined Pitreavie, Scotland included in this post, then continues…
This took place in the same part of the world and could be part of the same situation. I have Greer's affidavit, not stating what it was that we saw, but that he saw it too, at the same time as I was photographing it.
In 1974 Danish researcher Ole Henningsen was able to contact Wallace Litwin, and received the following letter, in which the details about the launching of weather balloons differs as does the number of photographs...
Yes, I did take a number of 2¼ x 2¼ color photographs from the flight deck of the Carrier FDR during "Operation Mainbrace" off the coast of Norway. They were of a white sphere directly overhead and quite high up against a bright blue sky. I included some of the carrier's superstructure and parts of some planes so as to relate the sphere to the ship.
I naturally thought that they were shots of one of the weather balloons which the Carrier FDR sent up every other day, alternating that duty with the second carrier with the fleet, the Midway. To clarify that a bit, on alternate days the FDR or the Midway sent up weather balloons which would rise higher and higher, with their recording instruments, and, when they had sent all their messages, they reached an altitude at which they burst. They were, of course, observed by ships' personnel until they were seen to "self-destruct."
When I had taken the three or four shots, I went below to the officers' lounge, where I jokingly announced to the correspondents there that I had "shot a flying saucer". The ship's executive officer asked what I meant and I explained that I had just photographed today's weather balloon. He said that our ship had not sent one up on that day, checked to be sure, and then radioed to the Midway. They said that they had not yet sent up the balloons for that day and that there were no unaccounted-for balloons around from previous days. In other words, the skies above this NATO fleet were very carefully observed and nothing flew around overhead unobserved. But I knew that I had taken a picture (4) of what looked like a ping-pong ball ten feet over my head.
I sent my film back to New York, to my editor, who, when it arrived, as yet unprocessed, was told by the U.S. Army Air Force at Wright Field, that they had to see it first.
They took the roll of 120 Ektochrome to Wright Field which was then the headquarters field of the (then) Army Air Force. Months passed. Finally my editor went to Wright Field, which I think is in Kansas, and saw black-and-white blow-ups of my transparencies which were wall-sized, tacked to the walls of a huge room. They apparently made such huge prints (perhaps twenty feet square) in order to see the little men looking out of the little windows. But keep in mind that these were the top "Brass" of the U.S. Air Force!!!
Finally they returned one of the transparencies to my editor, about two years after the fact, and said that it could be published.
I have that one transparency, which, luckily, has not faded with the years, and still shows the bright blue sky, laced with fleecy clouds, and the virgin white ping-pong ball, ten feet over my head.
I swear on my soon-to-be dead body that all of the foregoing is true.
It may be of personal interest that we journalists discovered that the FDR was at the time carrying an atom bomb, in a small room far below decks, and constantly guarded by a U.S. Marine guard. The Navy denied this most vehemently, but we reporters plied some of the navy people with charm, money, and booze, and made sure of the fact.
Perhaps it relates to the white sphere?
As to prints for you, price, and so on, who knows?
What is the first professional, well-focused picture of an UFO worth? Perhaps you can tell me.
I must say that I have been delighted to hear from you.
As stated previously, the letter varied in some details from the statement included in the October 2, 1952 letter. Whether the Ansco transparencies were personally delivered along with the letter is unknown. The October 2, 1952 letter ended with "As I said during our telephone conversation today, I would appreciate a quick return of these transparencies and any comment which the Air Force is willing to make about these pictures for publication". It is unknown how accurate Litwin's much later recounting of their eventual retrieval is, and it may be pertinent to take note that Litwin was apparently offering his photo for sale (it was apparently bought by contacts through APRO -- the Aerial Phenomenon Research Organization, headed by Coral Lorenzen -- and then forwarded to Ole Henningsen). The precise detail of Litwin's recounting of the "atom bomb" aboard the USS Roosevelt could not be confirmed, but it is known the USS Roosevelt carried aboard aircraft with both conventional and nuclear capabilities during some of its missions.
2. In his 1956 book The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects, Capt. Ed Ruppelt -- at the time the head of Project Blue Book -- wrote of Operation Mainbrace...
In late September 1952 the NATO naval forces had held maneuvers off the coast of Europe; they were called Operation Mainbrace. Before they had started someone in the Pentagon had half seriously mentioned that Naval Intelligence should keep an eye open for UFO's, but no one really expected the UFO's to show up. Nevertheless, once again the UFO's were their old unpredictable selves -- they were there.
On September 20, a U.S. newspaper reporter aboard an aircraft carrier in the North Sea was photographing a carrier take-off in color when he happened to look back down the flight deck and saw a group of pilots and flight deck crew watching something in the sky. He went back to look and there was a silver sphere moving across the sky just behind the fleet of ships. The object appeared to be large, plenty large enough to show up in a photo, so the reporter shot several pictures. They were developed right away and turned out to be excellent. He had gotten the superstructure of the carrier in each one and, judging by the size of the object in each successive photo, one could see that it was moving rapidly.
The intelligence officers aboard the carrier studied the photos. The object looked like a balloon. From its size it was apparent that if it were a balloon, it would have been launched from one of the ships, so the word went out on the TBS radio: "Who launched a balloon?"
The answer came back on the TBS: "Nobody."
Naval Intelligence double-checked, triple-checked and quadruple- checked every ship near the carrier but they could find no one who had launched the UFO.
We kept after the Navy. The pilots and the flight deck crew who saw the UFO had mixed feelings—some were sure that the UFO was a balloon while others were just as sure that it couldn't have been. It was traveling too fast, and although it resembled a balloon in some ways it was far from being identical to the hundreds of balloons that the crew had seen the aerologists launch.
We probably wouldn't have tried so hard to get a definite answer to the Mainbrace photos if it hadn't been for the events that took place during the rest of the operation, I explained to the group of ADC officers.
The day after the photos had been taken six RAF pilots flying a formation of jet fighters over the North Sea saw something coming from the direction of the Mainbrace fleet. It was a shiny, spherical object, and they couldn't recognize it as anything "friendly" so they took after it. But in a minute or two they lost it. When they neared their base, one of the pilots looked back and saw that the UFO was now following him. He turned but the UFO also turned, and again it outdistanced the Meteor in a matter of minutes.
Then on the third consecutive day a UFO showed up near the fleet, this time over Topcliffe Aerodrome in England. A pilot in a Meteor was scrambled and managed to get his jet fairly close to the UFO, close enough to see that the object was "round, silvery, and white" and seemed to "rotate around its vertical axis and sort of wobble." But before he could close in to get a really good look it was gone.
It was these sightings, I was told by an RAF exchange intelligence officer in the Pentagon, that caused the RAF to officially recognize the UFO.
3. Relevant Blue Book documents on the Operation Mainbrace sightings may be found in PDF format at NICAP. The USS Roosevelt picture was evaluated by Project Blue Book as "balloon".
4. The sighting reports over Virginia told in the articles "Fairfax County Has Visitation From Mysterious Balls of Fire", "'Bright Objects' Are Reported Over Fairfax", and "Balls of Fire Spotted in Sky By Virginia Family and Police" appear as two distinct listings in the Project Blue Book files, one as "Centreville, Va." and one as "Fairfax, Va.". However, the Centreville listing appears to refer to a clipping of the news article in the Washington Post included above, while the Fairfax file contains actual investigative documents. Those documents are few in number, consisting of the usual summary card, giving the source as "2 policemen" and the length of observation as "3-1/2 hours". There follows the usual two-page worksheet giving no additional information and in fact leaving a significant portion of the worksheet blank, including such items as "Were aircraft noted in area?" and "Did object change direction at any time?" and "Was any sound heard?". That same worksheet evaluates the "source" -- two policemen -- as "fair", and "details of report" as "poor", which seems in contradiction to the vivid details given in the news articles. The worksheet ends with the hand-written notation "Fournet following - up. RAOB would be valuable re: light refraction, inv, layer theory." The worksheet does not note the name of its preparer. The "Fournet" mentioned in the notation was Major Dewey Fournet, stationed with the Air Force Directorate of Intelligence in Washington, D.C., and the liaison between the Directorate and Project Blue Book in Ohio. On September 23, the day following the sighting, Fournet wired Capt. Ruppelt of Blue Book that "PERTAINING TO SIGHTING FAIRFAX AND CENTREVILLE VA MORNING 22 SEP. I AM INVESTIGATING THOROUGHLY SO NO FOLLOW-UP REQUIRED BY YOU." Fournet's telex is the last document in the file. The case was officially evaluated as "insufficient data".
5. The Whitney Bolton column indicates that he unaccountably missed the many press reports which stated that the "landing" was reported by the very children who, after alerting Mrs. May to what they had seen, accompanied her up the hill to investigate. The complete story of the incident can be found in the entry "Here There Be Monsters" through the Past Weeks portal of this site.
6. Translations of foreign-language news articles come from the files of Project Blue Book as well as declassified CIA files.
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