our speaker tonight
THE DECLASSIFIED FILES of Project Blue Book -- the 22-year long official Air Force investigation into the UFO phenomenon -- hold a treasure trove of documents far beyond the investigative reports of civilian and military encounters. An unintended time capsule, there are letters and photos sent to the Air Force by individuals, newspaper clippings and magazine articles on the phenomenon, scripts of broadcast programs, press releases for movies, galley proofs of upcoming books, clippings from civilian UFO newsletters and other items of enduring historical value. But of particular interest for this post, there is the transcript of a talk given by newsman Frank Edwards in Spring, 1956, which is the focus -- but by no means the entirety -- of this entry...
THERE ONCE WAS A TIME when 'summer reading' was an event of national stature.
In the days not only before the worldwide web, but long before there was such a thing as a 'personal' computer -- when there were only three television networks, all of them offering only last season's reruns and various fillers -- the books of summer were a vital part of college breaks and workers' vacations, of weekend picnics and lazy Sundays on the backyard patio.
And in 1966, with more than half-a-million Americans fighting in Vietnam, books were an escape for those fighting, too, as well as for those back home.
Thus in 1966, the bestseller lists teamed with variety. Jacqueline Susann's Valley of the Dolls and Harold Robbins The Adventurers overflowed with sex, scandal and fantasy. Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.'s A Thousand Days and Mark Lane's Rush to Judgment offered two different approaches to the Kennedy legacy. Truman Capote's In Cold Blood told the chilling tale of the brutal murder of a farm family by two drifters. And somewhere amongst the top three spots on the various bestseller lists, and holding its own on 'top ten' lists for months, was Frank Edwards' Flying Saucers, Serious Business.
EDWARDS' BOOK WAS GROUNDBREAKING, not in its subject -- there had come many books before -- but in its approach: where other 'flying saucer' books were focused on limited time periods, specific events or doubtful tales of the fantastic, Edwards gave a comprehensive overview, including case histories and behind-the-scenes reports on the military's reaction. And his writing had panache, as well. The first paragraphs:
Hundreds of persons near a huge frozen reservoir watched a glowing egg-shaped object darting about from place to place, intermittently shooting downward beams of light. Reservoir guards who later ventured out on the frozen surface reportedly found unexpected thawed places in the area where the object had hovered.
It happened on the night of January 12, 1966, within thirty miles of Times Square -- but most Americans never heard of it.
A glowing red object crossed the United States from New York to Utah, tracked by radar every foot of the way. It landed beside a power station and put the station out of operation. Forty eight minutes later it exploded in midair while pursued by armed jet interceptors.
It happened on April 18, 1962 -- but most people never heard of it.
Thousands of people stood in the streets of Duluth, Minnesota, and watched jet interceptors vainly chasing seven Unidentified Flying Objects (UFO's). The presence of both the jets and the UFO's was confirmed by the Radar Base on the Keweenaw Peninsula.
It happened in August of 1965 -- but most Americans never heard of it.
Sixty eight Unidentified Flying Objects roamed the skies over Washington D.C., in one night. They were tracked on radar. They were reported by the airline pilots whose planes they approached. A government agency published a special booklet dealing with the events of this one remarkable night . . . August 13, 1952.
But most Americans are still unaware that it ever happened.
And the book featured photos, as well, including the Air Force memo from which it drew its title:
UFO'S SERIOUS BUSINESS
Unidentified flying objects - sometimes treated lightly by the press and referred to as "flying saucers" - must be rapidly and accurately identified as serious USAF business in the ZI. As AFR 200-2 points out, the Air Force concern with these sightings is threefold: First of all, is the object a threat to the defense of the U.S.? Secondly, does it contribute to technical or scientific knowledge? And then there's the inherent USAF responsibility to explain to the American people through public-information media what is going on in their skies.
The phenomena or actual objects comprising UFO's will tend to increase, with the public more aware of goings on in space but still inclined to some apprehension. Technical and defense considerations will continue to exist in this era.
Published about three months ago, AFR 200-2 outlines necessary, orderly, qualified reporting as well as public-information procedures. This is where the base should stand today, with practices judged at least satisfactory by commander and inspector:
- Responsibility for handling UFO's shouldd rest with either intelligence, operations, the Provost Marshal or the Information Officer - in that order of preference, dictated by limits of the base organization;
- A specific officer should be designated as responsible;
- He should have experience in investigatiive techniques and also, if possible, scientific or technical background;
- He should have authority to obtain the aassistance of specialists on the base;
- He should be equipped with binoculars, ccamera, Geiger counter, magnifying glass and have a source for containers in which to store samples.
What is required is that every UFO sighting be investigated and reported to the Air Technical Intelligence Center at Wright-Patterson AFB and that explanation to the public be realistic and knowledgeable. Normally that explanation will be made only by the OSAF Information Office. It all adds up to part of the job of being experts in our own domain.
The caption to the memo read, This order was issued by the Inspector General of the Air Force to every Air Base Commander in the continental United States, on December 24, 1959.
That there was such an involved history to the subject came as a revelation to most, even as it still does today. That the military's concern was far more acute then ever admitted, was equally an eye-opener.
The book was well-reviewed across the nation.
From the Arcadia, California Tribune:
....a new and fascinating book by Frank Edwards... and contains the most startling
and astonishing words ever written about the UFO...
From the Gastonia, North Carolina Gazette:
Are you a non-believer?
Do you, like the official Air Force explanations indicate, believe that the sightings are pure hallucinations or figments of the imagination of the beholder?
If so, rush out to the bookshelf and find "Flying Saucers - Serious Business"...
And then, find a quiet place and read.
It will sound like pure science fiction, or something from the imagination of Rod Serling of "The Twilight Zone."
But, Edwards isn't just being a playwright.
He is putting down the facts, perhaps for the first time.
From the Tipton, Indiana Daily Tribune:
...The Air Force document contains the very words that are the title of his new book. "Flying Saucers -- Serious Business", which has just been published by Lyle Stuart and is already a national best-seller.
In his book, Frank Edwards shows how the highest authorities in our Defense Department have placed an almost impregnable censorship on all information about flying saucers -- or "unidentified flying objects," as they are more formally called.
Edwards cites incontrovertible facts to prove their existence, and in his book he also offers, as further proof, thirty-two pages of photographs.
From the Emporia, Kansas Gazette:
Unidentified Flying Objects (UFO) or flying saucers have been the subject of intensive study by newsman Frank Edwards for over a twenty year period.
He has studied the myth and mystery surrounding flying saucers, has weighed and analyzed reports of eye witnesses and statements by U.S. officials, and has become the top source of information on these objects.
In this book, FLYING SAUCERS, SERIOUS BUSINESS, Mr. Edwards makes a full report of his findings.
The evidence contained in this one volume will terrify, excite, and challenge the reader...
The book was discussed at dinner tables and coffee shops, at water coolers and in break rooms. Talk shows eagerly sought Edwards out, his wide-ranging knowledge and confident demeanor never failing to impress, whether on Art Linkletter's House Party, the Merv Griffin Show, or The Tonight Show.
But it was the context of it all that caused the greatest excitement: after ten years of denials by the Air Force, many felt they were hearing the truth for the first time.
THAT NOVEMBER, one of the world's largest syndicators -- King Features -- acquired distribution rights and syndicated a 10-part serialization of the book. Consisting of extensive excerpts, the series ran over the course of two weeks in papers nationwide, only increasing public interest.
But it was just another of many highlights in Frank Edwards' storied career.
Born in 1908 in Matoon, Illinois, Edwards had been a true radio pioneer. At the age of fifteen he became one of the first radio announcers at the nation's first commercial radio station, KDKA of Pittsburgh. He held a variety of jobs after that -- including professional golfer -- but after World War II turned back to radio full-time.
In 1949 Edwards became the announcer for a national news program on labor sponsored by the American Federation of Labor (AFL). The program -- a mix of news and opinion -- became widely popular. But it was when Edwards started mixing in 'flying saucer' news that the program reached a listenership in the millions -- Edwards' program was one of the top three radio broadcasts in the nation, at a time when commercial television was still in its infancy.
The 'flying saucer' news was but a tiny portion of Edwards' broadcasts, representing a break from the more somber stories of the day. And it was in itself just a small portion of events of the unusual and weird that Edwards sometimes threw in. But there was no doubt that many listeners tuned in for just that, the news they could not get anyplace else.
And Edwards had some major 'flying saucer' scoops along the way. The biggest was his announcement of the startling findings of the True magazine article by Major Donald Keyhoe, called The Flying Saucers Are Real, just before it was published.
Edwards had made sure that the nation would be listening to the broadcast that night. From a December 22, 1949 Associated Press wire story:
Flying Discs Really Exist, Newsman Says
INDIANAPOLIS -- (AP)-- Radio Commentator Frank Edwards said here Wednesday night that flying saucers "actually exist -- but that "they are not of this world."
He implied they were from another planet or solar system, but declined to name his source of information.
Edwards, who broadcasts over Station WISH of the Mutual network, said he would offer more details Monday in a broadcast from Washington.
In his talk Wednesday night, Edwards said the government's investigation of the widely reported flying discs has continued for more than a year "and is still going on."
He said "a million and one" reliable witnesses have testified to seeing the phenomena.
Edwards said the investigators have decided there are two types of the flying objects -- the spinning "saucers" or discs that were first reported, and a "flying fuselage" seen later.
The first report of the discs came 2-1/2 years ago from a private flyer near the Cascade mountains in Washington state. Literally thousands of other, similar reports followed from almost all parts of the world.
Following Edwards' broadcast -- and endorsement -- the True article became upon publication one of the most widely read and discussed in magazine history.
EDWARDS KEPT AFTER the 'flying saucer' story thereafter, sometimes in print.
In July, 1952 the nation underwent a saucer 'flap' of proportions not seen since the initial flurry of 1947. The culmination were sightings over Washington, D.C. itself, over the course of a week. The sightings had been confirmed on radar, and pilots had been sent in pursuit. The result was the largest Pentagon news conference since the war, led by Generals Samford and Ramey. The conference was described by Captain Ed Ruppelt, then head of the Air Force investigation known as Project Blue Book:
When the press conference, which was the largest and longest the Air Force had held since World War II, convened at 4:00 P.M., General Samford made an honest effort to straighten out the Washington National Sightings, but the cards were stacked against him before he started. He had to hedge on many answers to questions from the press because he didn't know the answers. This hedging gave the impression that he was trying to cover up something more than just the fact that his people had fouled up in not fully investigating the sightings. Then he had brought in Captain Roy James from ATIC to handle all the queries about radar. James didn't do any better because he'd just arrived in Washington that morning and didn't know very much more about the sightings than he'd read in the papers. Major Dewey Fournet and Lieutenant Holcomb, who had been at the airport during the sightings, were extremely conspicuous by their absence, especially since it was common knowledge among the press that they weren't convinced the UFO's picked up on radars were weather targets.
But somehow out of this chaotic situation came exactly the result that was intended - the press got off our backs. Captain James's answers about the possibility of the radar targets being caused by temperature inversions had been construed by the press to mean that this was the Air Force's answer, even though today the twin sightings are still carried as unknowns.
Major Donald Keyhoe, who was at the news conference, in his classic book Flying Saucers from Outer Space described the effect:
When I reached New York, I checked in at the Commodore and then waited for the early editions. By this time presses all over the country were beginning to grind out the conference story. Ironically, even as the presses roared, Air Force jet pilots were chasing saucers over two Midwest states. One case, if it had been made public that night, would have ruined the inversion answer and wrecked the debunking plan. But I didn't learn this until weeks later.
Just before midnight, I saw the New York early editions. The Times piece, by Austin Stevens, carried a front-page two-column headline:
Air Force Debunks Saucers As Just Natural Phenomena
The Herald Tribune story, by C.B. Allen, followed the same line.
Next day, I called Washington. neither the Post nor the Star had questioned the Air Force answers. The Post story was headlined:
Saucer Blips Over Capital Laid To Heat
The Associated Press account was in the same vein. Though the Washington News and some other papers had hedged, it was clear than General Samford and his staff had put it over. And in an item from Harvard, Dr. Menzel assured the country that the saucers would disappear when the heat spell was over.
But there was at least one newsman who wasn't buying it. From August 8, 1952...
There Are More Explanations Than Saucers: Edwards
By FRANK EDWARDS
AFL Radio Commentator
Flying saucers have landed in the headlines again.
A few nights ago, radar showed a flight of unidentified objects maneuvering over the nation's capital. Jet fighter planes zoomed aloft, found themselves outdistanced by eerie lights, came back mystified and empty-handed.
It was the latest episode in the flying saucer serial which has been in progress since June of 1947 when they were first reported over the Northwest by a civilian pilot.
Millions of people are asking themselves if the saucers are real or if they are mere natural phenomena reported by excited zanies.
Look at Record
Let's look at the record.
Is there such a thing as a flying saucer?
The Air Force tried to dismiss them as "hallucinations" until both military and civilian pilots reported sightings. If those men were having 'hallucinations' they were in no condition to be flying; yet not one single pilot was grounded for this reason.
According to Air Force Intelligence, 25 per cent of the sightings are reported by military fliers, including many Air Force pilots and crew members.
Next question: Are the saucers an American secret weapon?
Top officials, from the President on down, have repeatedly asserted that we have no such device. If they were ours we would hardly be spending billions for conventional planes which are easily outperformed by the saucers, according to reports.
And since they have been sighted over more than 60 different nations, they have plainly violated the international boundaries repeatedly. For these reasons it seems probable that the discs are not the property of this nation.
Question No. 3: Are they natural phenomena?
Undoubtedly, many of the reported sightings fall into this category. Excited people see and report things which do not exist except in their imaginations. Others misinterpret conventional objects into strange, and wondrous accounts.
What about the radar reports?
Many radar readings have been made on unidentified objects which maneuvered in the sky in a fashion beyond the capabilities of any known craft or missile.
During the recent flurry of "sightings in Washington, the same objects were picked up simultaneously by several radar units. One Air Force official "explained" that the strange pips on the radar were nothing more than reflections from inverted layers of air.
If this were true, it would mean that the radar at the National Airport could not distinguish between incoming passenger planes and layers of air, which would be extremely dangerous.
The "hot air" explanation seems to be just that and no more.
Are the flying saucers real?
Privately, top military figures are deeply concerned about these things. They don't know the answer.
The only thing more numerous than the saucer is the explanations of them. You pays your price and you takes your choice!
Edwards would continue to poke eyes for the next two years, as his ratings continued to climb. Then, in 1954:
NEW YORK, Aug. 13. - The American Federation of Labor has dropped its national radio broadcaster, Frank Edwards, on the ground he failed to draw a line between news and opinion.
In effect, the federation's feeling was that in mixing the two together on his Monday-through-Friday broadcasts over 160 Mutual stations, Edwards was weighting his programs on the side of labor generally and the AFL particularly.
Announced by Meany
The action, was announced yesterday by George Meany, federation president, as the AFL executive council continued its quarterly meeting.
In Washington, Edwards said he submitted his resignation because Meany attempted to impose a censorship "to fit his personal ambitions, animosities, and prejudices."
Edwards objected to-an AFL policy directive which, he said, made Charles Harrold, editor of the program, responsible for the content of the broadcast. Harrold is an AFL staff member, a former newspaper man, and has been working with Edwards for some time.
In announcing the dropping of Edwards, Meany insisted there was no question of censoring the broadcaster's opinions. The main problem, he, said, was Edwards' disagreement with an AFL policy directive maintaining that "opinion should be clearly labeled as opinion and interpretation."
Meany said this directive was worked out, two years ago when the late William Green was AFL president. It was a verbal agreement and was not put into writing until Aug. 2 of this year. At that time, according to Meany, Edwards accepted the policy.
However, early this week, Edwards submitted his resignation, saying he was not in agreement with the directive. He asked that the resignation become effective on Dec. 31. But the AFL, exercising an option under the contract with the broadcaster, terminated his services. Edwards made his final broadcast last Tuesday night.
Meany said the AFL had two major objections to the broadcasts.
One was that instead of covering all major national and international news, Edwards "omitted the stuff he wasn't interested in." The other was that he lumped news and opinion together without saying which was which.
Opinions were all right "as long as they were labeled as such," Meany said.
Meany had one other objection lo Edwards. He said the broadcaster violated another section of the policy directive by asking listeners to write in telling their views to specific questions without advance permission from the AFL.
"One time," said Meany, "he asked his audience whether they wanted him to continue his nightly broadcasts on flying saucers. We were swamped with mail, and we were not especially interested in flying saucers."
Bowed, but not defeated, Edwards would turn his attentions elsewhere. In the years before his contract with the AFL had brought him to Washington, D.C., Edwards had broadcast nationally from Indianapolis radio station WISH. Now he returned to Indianapolis as a news anchor for local television station WTTV.
It was another pioneering moment for Edwards, as television itself was a new medium, and the role of 'television news' was as yet undefined. Most people still depended on radio for news broadcasts, but Edwards was there for the change. And ever true to himself, his newscasts often ended with news of the weird and unusual, including of course, 'flying saucers'.
He also penned his first book, and his first best-seller, My First 10,000,000 Sponsors, a memoir of his time in broadcasting.
IT WAS DURING THIS PERIOD, in 1956 to be specific, that Edwards made his first public speaking engagement on the subject of flying saucers.
The group to which Edwards spoke was the Civilian Saucer Intelligence of New York. Its Wikipedia entry (with references omitted):
Civilian Saucer Intelligence (CSI) was an independent unidentified flying object research group founded in New York City in 1954. It was initially called Civilian Saucer Intelligence New York, but the "New York" was quickly dropped from their name.
In contrast to the many amateurish early "flying saucer clubs", CSI actually conducted rigorous investigations of UFO reports. The CSI Newsletter was issued quarterly, and Jerome Clark describes it as "the best UFO periodical of its time -- well edited, intelligent, thoughtful and critical-minded."
They were critical of contactees who claimed to be in regular contact with aliens, but stood apart from other groups by actively investigating close encounters of the third kind, where animate beings are alleged to be seen as part of UFO sightings.
Jerome Clark writes, "Though its membership was small, what the organization lacked in quantity it made up in quality of its personnel"... CSI's core personnel were Ted Bloecher, Isabel Davis, and Alexander Mebane.
American biochemist Michael D. Swords describes CSI's impressive projects as the result of "the Herculean efforts of three talented UFO researchers ... [t]hey were tough analysts, very difficult to fool with trivial cases." CSI was also notable for translating into English two books by French ufologist Aime Michel.
Furthermore, according to Swords, CSI became astronomer J. Allen Hynek's main source of UFO reports during the mid-1950s -- especially cases from outside the U.S.
The role of the civilian investigative groups is difficult to appreciate today, when so much data about any topic is readily available. But back then, anyone who really cared about the subject found the civilian organizations their only avenue for the latest information and analysis. And indeed, so much of what is known today came about not only because of civilian investigations, but because their investigations produced pressure on the Air Force. A December 17, 1958 memo from Col. Glasser of Air Force intelligence to the Commander of the Air Technical Intelligence Center sums up the situation (cut and pasted for relevant parts only):
Those who depended on the civilian organizations included Dr. J. Allen Hynek as well, who although he was the official consultant astronomer to the Air Force investigation for two decades, was heavily reliant on civilian groups for information about sightings -- and sometimes they were his only source for incidents, which Hynek subsequently brought to the Air Force's attention. Hynek's relationship with CSI in particular was also personal -- in the files of Project Blue Book is a three-page, single-spaced letter to Hynek describing one such investigation, and also confirming that CSI had gotten the much sought-after tickets to My Fair Lady Hynek had requested for his next visit.
But on the night of April 18th, 1956, the group's attention was focused solely on Edwards. This then is the transcript of his talk, as found in the files of Project Blue Book (which accounts for underlines and margin notes).
And so without further ado, our speaker tonight... Frank Edwards.
Click here for full-size version with all 14 pages in new window.
In retrospect, the talk was remarkable for many points that it touched, but several deserve specific mention. Roswell had been forgotten just days after the July, 1947 announcement by General Ramey that it had all been much ado over a weather balloon, and was not even on the radar of the civilian organizations. It would take twenty-four more years after Edwards' talk for public interest to reawaken, and his assertion that 'according to what I was told, they threw troops in a circle all around that place, would let nobody in for five days' is certainly one of the earliest, if not the earliest public mention of such a cordon.
Meanwhile, Edwards' reference to a letter from the physicists was intriguing, to say the least. And it may or may not have something to do with a report that former Project Blue Book chief Captain Ed Ruppelt mentions in his classic 1956 book, The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects, when talking about his involvement in the Robertson Panel (a committee commissioned by the Central Intelligence Agency in 1952 to assess the security implications of the UFO phenomenon)...
The next item on the agenda... was a review of a very hot and very highly controversial study. It was based on the idea that Major Dewey Fournet and I had talked about several months before - an analysis of the motions of the reported UFO's in an attempt to determine whether they were intelligently controlled. The study was hot because it wasn't official and the reason it wasn't official was because it was so hot. It concluded that the UFO's were interplanetary spaceships. The report had circulated around high command levels of intelligence and it had been read with a good deal of interest. But even though some officers at command levels just a notch below General Samford bought it, the space behind the words "Approved by" was blank - no one would stick his neck out and officially send it to the top.
Dewey Fournet, who had completed his tour of active duty in the Air Force and was now a civilian, was called from Houston, Texas, to tell the scientists about the study since he had worked very closely with the group that had prepared it.
The study covered several hundred of our most detailed UFO reports. By a very critical process of elimination, based on the motion of the reported UFO's, Fournet told the panel how he and any previous analysis by Project Blue Book had been disregarded and how those reports that could have been caused by any one of the many dozen known objects - balloons, airplanes, astronomical bodies, etc., were sifted out. This sifting took quite a toll, and the study ended up with only ten or twenty reports that fell into the "Unknown" category. Since such critical methods of evaluation had been used, these few reports proved beyond a doubt that the UFO's were intelligently controlled by persons with brains equal to or far surpassing ours.
The next step in the study, Fournet explained, was to find out where they came from. "Earthlings" were eliminated, leaving the final answer - spacemen.
Both Dewey and I had been somewhat worried about how the panel would react to a study with such definite conclusions. But when he finished his presentation, it was obvious from the tone of the questioning that the men were giving the conclusions serious thought. Fournet's excellent reputation was well known.
Finally, there is Edwards' telling of the sad fate of Col. Merkel. A January 31, 1956 Associated Press wire story on his death was brief:
A pilot identified as Lt. Col. Lee J. Merkel of Louisville, Ky., was killed Tuesday as his Mustang plane plunged into a field 10 miles south of Bloomington.
Witnesses said they thought the pilot was trying to make a forced landing. They said the plane came down at a 60-degree angle, struck in a field in the Salt Creek bottoms, plowed a furrow and buried itself to its tail. There was no fire or explosion.
Col. Merkel was commander of the Kentucky Air National Guard squadron based at Louisville. The identification was based on papers found near the wreckage.
Two days later, an INS wire story contained a brief follow-up:
BEDFORD.-Ind. (INS) -- Officials today investigated the death of the commanding officer of a Kentucky National Guard Air Wing in a plane crash between Bloomington and Bedford late Tuesday.
The victim was Lieutenant Col. Lee J. Merkel, 35, of Louisville, commanding officer of the 123rd Fighter-interceptor group based at Standiford Field, Louisville.
The plane crashed into an open field between two hills two miles east of Harrodsburg at about a 60-degree angle after what seemed to be a power dive.
Col. Merkel was test flying the plane which had been repaired recently.
And the 'test-flying' explanation is still official today. From the Kentucky National Air Guard:
Lieutenant Colonel Lee Joseph Merkel, long-time base detachment commander at Standiford Field, died when his F-51 Mustang crashed at about 3:30 p.m. on 31 January 1956 some ten miles north of Bedford Indiana along Salt Creek. Merkel was on a test flight. Merkel was a highly decorated World War II pilot with service in Europe with the 346th Fighter Squadron as squadron flight leader in six campaigns (North Africa, Sicily, Italy, and France). He was awarded the Air Medal with five oak leaf clusters and the Distinguished Flying Cross. He flew 143 missions in World War II and was shot down behind enemy lines on one occasion in Italy.
He was a graduate of DuPont Male High School and also attended the University of Louisville. Merkel joined the United States Army in August 1940 at Godman Field with the 12th Observation Squadron. In January 1942 he began training as an aviation cadet.
Merkel accumulated some 400 combat flying hours during World War II. Merkel left active duty in January 1946 but soon joined the Kentucky Air National Guard in February 1947 and served as a squadron commander, executive officers and wing commander in addition to base detachment commander. He was qualified in the F-51D, C-47 and F-84E with more than 3,000 flying hours in his career. He was also rated as a test pilot and instructor pilot.
There was no mention of what on the F-51 had been 'repaired', or of the cause of the crash. That such an experienced pilot had not deployed his emergency bailout parachute may have been to avoid civilian casualties below.
And Edwards' remains the most complete, and almost only recounting, of a more subtle picture -- at least as told to the veteran newsman.
IN 1956 EDWARDS AUTHORED his first book, My First 10,000,000 Sponsors, a well-received autobiographical look at the early days of radio. Then, in 1959, he again pioneered with the publication of Stranger Than Science, the first of several books he would write on odd happenings and anomalous phenomenon. A huge bestseller in paperback, it was especially popular with the emerging adolescents of the 'baby boom; generation, who had grown up on a steady diet of sci-fi matinees and TV shows such as One Step Beyond. Nothing like it for the mass audience had been published before, and it set off a wave of 'strange but true' tomes throughout the 1960s.
The book not only lead to several sequels, but to a new Edwards' radio program, likewise titled Stranger Than Science, and a syndicated daily column, Strange to Relate. Then, in 1966, Edwards hit his publishing peak with Flying Saucers, Serious Business.
A year later, after being in failing health for a month, Frank Edwards died.
Active to the last, the next week an update completed by Edwards on Flying Saucers, Serious Business was re-serialized in the national papers. The next year, his last book, Flying Saucers, Here and Now was published posthumously.
Two days following Edwards' death, Kokomo Times staff writer Dave Ashenfelter would pen a remembrance:
Frank Edwards, former American Federation of Labor, commentator, pioneer broadcaster, reporter, author and avid UFO investigator is dead...
I first came in contact with Frank Edwards in the Spring of 1966 during which time I began work on a research paper entitled, "Flying Saucers - Fact or Fiction."
I spent several weeks researching the subject, was aware Edwards was an expert on the subject and decided to question him about certain aspects of the research paper.
One evening I telephoned him at the Indianapolis television station where he worked as a late evening news commentator. His reply to my call was brief -- "Send me your questions in a self-addressed stamped envelope. I'll be glad to answer your questions."
Within a week I received, a reply. Most of the questions were far out and as a result I discovered several "bunks" on the margin of the letter.
During the Fall of 1966 I wrote several articles about UFO's. Perhaps this is why a local radio broadcaster called me one evening with the question, "Would you like to interview Frank Edwards?"
I strolled into the Kokomo Country Club an hour later. I saw Frank sitting on a sofa discussing his favorite subject -- flying saucers. We discussed UFO's for several minutes.
I left the interview that evening with his latest book, "Flying Saucers - Serious Business." Inside the cover Frank wrote: "To Dave Ashenfelter - Don't read this after dark - Frank Edwards 1966."
Two months later Frank again visited Kokomo; this time for a program he was giving at Havens Auditorium. I called Frank fifteen minutes before showtime and scheduled another interview with the fascinating man.
About two hours later a relatively heavy set man walked into the office and said, "I've been looking for you." He made the interview simple. He sat opposite my typewriter and began talking. Before leaving he told me the easiest way to contact him and gave me several tips on reporting.
This was my last talk with Frank Edwards, a man who greatly impressed me. During that last interview, I noticed he looked very tired. I imagine he was. He was enthusiastic about his work and probably spent a large amount of time researching the subject while gathering more reports for another book.
In the seven months that have passed, I have often been asked about Frank Edwards. "What is he like," I have often heard.
To me Frank Edwards was a hard worker, a man who was deep in his subject. He was the kind of person who makes reporting enjoyable.
Unlike many persons, he knew what he was talking about and did his best to convince the public that flying saucers are real.
Ashenfelter then ends with words which undoubtedly would have made Edwards proud...
Of the flying saucer enthusiasts I've talked with, Frank Edwards came the closest to making me a UFO Believer.
A sentiment undoubtedly shared by an untold number of others, even today.
1. A 1964 speech given by Frank Edwards, mostly railing against government secrecy, is available in the audioplex.
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