true story of
PART FIVE OF TEN PARTS
July 8, 1947 San Mateo Times.
HAD IT NOT BEEN for the official announcement on July 8, 1947 that the Army Air Force had recovered a crashed disc at Roswell, New Mexico, an entirely different story which appeared on the same day -- which told of metal recovered from a giant flying saucer in the company of five other giant flying saucers -- might have gotten much more attention.
As it was, the story -- if it appeared at all -- was relegated to being buried in general overviews of other "flying disc" accounts of the day, and lost in the shuffle.
For instance, from an overview article in the Ceylon Observer, July 9, 1947...
A Chicago report says that a piece of rocklike metal, alleged to have dropped from one of the "Flying Saucers" arrived yesterday for analysis by metallurgists of Chicago University.
The sender, Mr. Harold Dahl, of Tacoma, Washington State, said that on June 25 over Puget Sound, near the Canadian border, he and two companions on board a small boat saw what appeared to be huge silver doughnuts coming down between the clouds.
He anchored his boat and went ashore and watched the objects through binoculars. He saw five objects floating around a sixth. They were about 200 feet in diameter with a centre hole surrounded by what appeared to be a row of portholes.
The ships, as Mr. Dahl described them, came level at about fifteen hundred feet and then rose rapidly to a height of nearly a mile.
At this point, according to Mr. Dahl, the centre ship began trailing a substance that rained down upon the water and along the shore. Pieces of the "metal rain" smashed a part of the wheel house of his boat and broke a searchlight lens on deck.
And from The Hindu Madras, July 10, 1947...
EYE-WITNESS ACCOUNT OF "METALLIC RAIN"
CHICAGO, July 8. A piece of rock-like metal, alleged to have dropped from one of the "Flying Saucers" which have been reported sighted from 38 American States, arrived here today for analysis by metallurgists of Chicago University. The sample was accompanied by one of the most detailed accounts reported of the "Airborne Discs."
The sender, Mr. Harold Dahl, of Tacoma (Washington State), said that the substance was dropped in heavy rain on June 25 over Puget Sound, near the Canadian Border, from a huge circular flying machine.
He said that he and two companions on board a small boat saw what appeared to be huge silver dough-nuts coming down between the clouds.
"I anchored the boat and went ashore and watched the objects through binoculars," Mr. Dahl said. "I saw five objects rotating around a sixth. They were about 200 feet in diameter with a centre hole, surrounded by what appeared to be a row of portholes."
The "ships" as Mr. Dahl described them, hung level about 1,500 feet, and then rose rapidly to a height of nearly a mile. At this point, according to Mr. Dahl, the central ship began raining a substance that rained down upon the water and along the shore. Pieces of the "metal rain" smashed a hole in the wheel-house of his boat and broke a searchlight lens on deck. Some of the substance which, he said, was picked up on the beach was sent along to back up his story. -- Reuter.
But in the rush of events at Roswell, Harold Dahl's story was little noticed and soon forgotten -- except by one Raymond A. Palmer, of Chicago.
Cover of March, 1945 Amazing Stories.
IT HAD UNDOUBTEDLY been Palmer who fed the story of Harold Dahl -- which read like a press release -- to the newswires. As editor-in-chief of the pulpish Amazing Stories magazine he not only had the media connections, but the metal said to have dropped from a flying saucer had been sent directly to him.
It was about this same time that Palmer was also pursuing another story -- that of Kenneth Arnold, the 32-year old businessman-pilot who had been the first to report the "flying saucers", setting off a national sensation just two weeks before.
Arnold's reported sighting of nine discs while flying his small plane near Mt. Rainier had been at least mentioned in passing in every news story since. And there had been stories by the dozen -- by the time the Army Air Force announced the retrieval of a crashed disc in New Mexico there had already been sightings of flying discs reported in at least 45 states as well as Canada. Arnold had granted many interviews, and had a received a torrent of mail, but it had been Palmer who had gotten his attention. Arnold would later write...
It was while going through my mail about the fifteenth of July that for some reason or other I gave attention to one particular letter that I had received. It was from a Mr. Raymond A. Palmer. It was written on stationery with the letter head of THE VENTURE PRESS. I didn't know who Raymond Palmer was and I had never heard of the Venture Press. At the time, had I known who he was, I probably wouldn't have answered his letter...
This letter from Mr. Palmer was far from being anything sensational, but somehow it had a tone of softness and sincere interest that appealed to me. I think I read that letter at least ten times. Finally I answered it. I was intensely interested in finding out who Raymond Palmer was and inquired from all my friends as well as the newspaper offices here in Boise. Nobody that I ran into had ever heard of either him or the Venture Press.
That no one Arnold knew had ever heard of Venture Press was understandable, for it was a new publishing firm formed by Palmer and Curtis Fuller, then editor of Flying magazine. Palmer and Fuller guided their respective magazines as part of the Ziff-Davis publishing empire, which at the time was contemplating a move from Chicago to New York. Venture Press had been formed by Palmer and Fuller so that they could stay in Chicago, but they had kept the enterprise secret from Ziff-Davis, where they both were still employed.
Whether it was for Amazing Stories or some future publication of his own that Palmer was pursuing Harold Dahl's story as well as that of Kenneth Arnold is unknown. But pursue both stories he did, as Arnold would later write...
His next letter arrived about a week later. In it he expressed his desire to pay me if I would write down my experience for him. This didn't particularly appeal to me. I had received other letters and other offers. However, since Mr. Palmer was so interested, I sent him a carbon copy of the report I had sent the commanding officer of Wright-Patterson Field.
In the next letter I received from Mr. Palmer, he told me that he had heard that two harbor patrolmen at Tacoma, Washington had had a very unusual experience -- a Mr. Harold A. Dahl and a Fred L. Crisman claimed that they had not only seen a group of flying saucers but that they had in their possession some fragments that came from one of them. Mr. Palmer wrote that he had a definite interest in the case and would send me expense money if I could find the time to go up there and investigate the authenticity of their story as well as ship some of the fragments, if I could obtain them, to him at Evanston, Illinois. I just let the letter sit for a few days to think it over...
The letter from Palmer, typed on stationery with the letterhead of "Venture Press", was dated July 12, 1947...
Dear Mr. Arnold:
Quite obviously you have been ribbed so much you'd like to forget the flying saucers -- but I'd sure like to have your personal story, your photo, pic of your plane, etc, as I asked before. And you won't be made to look silly, because there's more to this than the newspapers and the "experts" have made of it.
Besides the articles, I have another proposition. You seem to get around quite a bit, and if you can make a trip to Tacoma, Washington at all feasible, I'd be willing to pay expenses plus a nice amount to make it worth your while.
I'd want you to see Mr. Harold A. Dahl, P.O. Box 154, Fern Hill Station, Tacoma, and Mr. Fred L. Crisman, owner of the Tacoma Harbor Patrol, Inc. Dahl, and two other seamen, on a patrol near Maury Island, off Tacoma, saw six discs, one in trouble, witnessed an explosion, saw falling stuff which smashed their wheelhouse and searchlight and landed on the beach. They sent me a sample which Chicago U has failed to analyze. I want a picture of the beach and the stuff that landed there (about twenty tons, they said). And I want somebody who'll get the truth. To find out if these boys are on the up and up. You could do that. I hope you will. If agreeable, please write and perhaps we can talk business. I think you'd like to prove this thing too!
Anyway, I still want that article!
The letter was intriguing on several levels which wouldn't have been immediately apparent to Kenneth Arnold. For instance, Palmer had pushed Amazing Stories to circulation highs through a series of pieces on what came to be known as the "Shaver mystery". Co-written by Palmer himself, they told of revelations received by Richard Shaver -- a welder by trade -- of an evil and degenerate progenitor race of humans called the "dero" who dwelled in vast caves underground. The "dero" had access to wondrous machines far in advance of any known technology with which they bedeviled human surface dwellers. So when Palmer wrote to Arnold that "there's more to this than the newspapers and the 'experts' have made of it", he may have had the deros in mind.
It is also interesting to note the language Palmer used in stating that Dahl and Crisman "sent me a sample which Chicago U has failed to analyze". The implication was that the expert metallurgists couldn't identify the samples, but Palmer's statement would hold equally true if the university had refused to get involved at all with the man who was pushing the story of evil deros.
But most intriguing is why Palmer was urging Arnold to pursue Harold Dahl's story. It is true, as Palmer wrote in his letter, that Arnold got "around a bit". He was owner of a business which sold fire-control equipment to airlines and airports, and as part of that flew a five-state territory in his private plane, traveling from his home in Boise, Idaho. But Arnold had no experience either as a writer or an investigator -- while Palmer, now in his eighth year as editor in chief of Amazing Stories and seven other publications, undoubtedly had access to many professional writers who could look into it for him. The reasons Palmer chose Arnold can only be surmised, but it certainly would have been publicity-worthy to have Arnold -- the man who started it all -- connected with Dahl's even more startling encounter.
None of which apparently was in Arnold's sightline at the time as he considered Palmer's offer. Seeking advice, he turned to a friend -- Dave Johnson, aviation editor of The Idaho Statesman. Johnson had long known Arnold, their relationship stemming from the fact that as private pilots they had both been at various functions in Boise and had even gotten together to "talk shop" about flying. Johnson had been one of the first reporters to interview Arnold after his sighting, and they had gone searching together in the Statesman's plane to see if they could find and film a disc with Arnold's new movie camera -- bought for the specific purpose of capturing filmed proof should Arnold sight any more flying discs. Johnson wrote up the story of the flight, though it had been unsuccessful. Continuing the search alone over the next two days -- and writing stories each time -- Johnson had finally seen one of the flying discs.
Arnold would later write of his discussion of Palmer's offer with Johnson...
The next day I found out that Dave Johnson of The Idaho Statesman also had been requested to send in a complete written report of his observation to the commanding officer of Wright-Patterson Field, Dayton, Ohio. It was that afternoon as we were walking down Capitol Boulevard in Boise that I talked to Dave about the letter that I had received from R.A. Palmer. I asked him if he thought it would be right for me to accept expense money to fly to Tacoma, Washington and investigate the sighting and fragments in relation to Harold A. Dahl and Fred L. Crisman. Dave thought that I would be silly not to accept the money. He suggested that a good way to find out if this Mr. R.A. Palmer was sincere was to write or wire him for the expense money first. I did so that afternoon, requesting $200. The $200 was at Western Union waiting for me the next morning.
I was quite surprised and I think that Dave was, too. Dave, being a hard-headed newspaper man, just couldn't believe an unknown party, so to speak, would be tossing money around that way. So there I was with the $200 and now the responsibility to go to Tacoma and investigate the matter.
But Johnson wasn't quite as sanguine about the matter as Arnold believed. On July 12, 1947 he had met up with Arnold and two investigative partners from A-2 Military Intelligence, Fourth Air Force -- Lieutenant Frank M. Brown and Captain William Davidson. The investigators had given both Arnold and Johnson contact numbers should they need to get in touch. Johnson had apparently made liberal use of this, keeping the investigators up to date on Palmer's offer, for on the very day that Arnold would later write he left for Tacoma, Johnson sent the following Western Union telegram...
BOISE IDA JULY 29 1947 255P
LT FRANK M BROWN, A_2 (RPT A_2)
OFFICE 4TH AIRFORCE HAMILTON FIELD CALIF.
VENTURE PRESS 305 STUDIO BLDG 1918 SHERMAN AVE EVANSTON ILL. RAY PALMER. SENT ARNOLD $200 TO GO TO TACOMA TO INVESTIGATE FLYING DISC REPORT THERE. SUGGEST THIS OUT OF LINE FOR PRESENT PUBLIC INTEREST IN STORY AND BELIEVE AS I SUGGESTED ON YOUR VISIT HERE VENTURE PRESS SHOULD BE CHECKED
Nor is it likely that this was the only effort Johnson was making to find the back-story to Raymond Palmer and Harold Dahl. An August 19, 1947 FBI report about the events of Maury Island indicated that Johnson's newspaper, The Idaho Statesman, had been in urgent contact with a west coast newsman to find out as much as possible about Dahl and his claimed sighting. From that FBI report...
ERNIE VOGEL, Associated Press Wireman, Tacoma, Washington, advised that in the early part of June, 1947 he was requested by the Seattle Post Intelligencer to check on a story which he was informed had been obtained from the Fire Chief at Harper, Washington. The story was supposed to have originated with FRED CRISMAN. Mr. VOGEL stated that the story was to the effect that DAHL, while patrolling in his boat near Maury Island, saw five or six flying discs, one of which fluttered toward the ground and finally disintegrated. Fragments of the disc were reported to have showered down on the boat of HAROLD DAHL, causing some damage and killing his dog. Mr. VOGEL stated that he went to the home of HAROLD DAHL on 3903 North Cove, Tacoma, Washington to check with him on this flying disc story. He stated that as best he could recall, this was just a few days after the first flying disc stories had appeared in the paper and was on a Sunday evening. He believed it was the early part of June. He stated that DAHL took him in the kitchen and proceeded to talk about this flying disc story in low muffled tones. He stated that DAHL acted rather suspicious and that shortly his wife came into the kitchen and was in a considerable rage, telling DAHL to admit that the entire story was a plain fantasy which he had dreamed up. He stated that after his wife told DAHL to admit the entire story was false, that DAHL then admitted that there was nothing whatever to the story and it was an entire hoax. VOGEL stated that in view of the enraged condition of DAHL's wife, he immediately left and reported to the Seattle Post Intelligencer that the entire story was a hoax and that they should not print it in any way. He further stated that he advised the Seattle Post Intelligencer that DAHL was a mental case and that nothing which he had reported should be carried as far as a news story. VOGEL stated that since that time he had received repeated requests from the Boise Statesman requesting information as to the flying disc stories reportedly originating with FRED CRISMAN and HAROLD DAHL. VOGEL stated that he had never, in his experience, had such pressure brought upon him to release a news story and that he repeatedly advised the Boise Statesman that the story of seeing the flying discs by DAHL and CRISMAN was a complete fabrication and should be in no way carried as a news story and refused to furnish any information regarding these reports. He further stated that he advised the Boise Statesman shortly before, or at the time KENNETH ARNOLD left Boise to come to Tacoma to check on the flying disc stories with DAHL and CRISMAN, that ARNOLD should not come as the entire story was a hoax.
Though Dave Johnson was never named in the above report, the most likely explanation is that it was indeed him who was involved, but not because he was after a story -- after all, he was already closer to the story than the anonymous news man at Tacoma. Rather, it seems that he was trying to protect his friend Arnold against some kind of setup. Whether or what he ever told Arnold of what little he found out is unknown. Also unknown is whether or what Johnson told Lieutenant Frank M. Brown and Captain William Davidson, the investigators from A-2 Military Intelligence, to whom he sent the telegram. All that is known is that on July 29, 1947 he did send the telegram urging them to check on Palmer and Venture Press.
But such an investigation of Venture Press would take time, and Kenneth Arnold would already be on his way to Tacoma.
Left: From July, 1947, the "Flying Saucer Chapeau" was one of many novelty creations capitalizing on the national obsession with the phenomenon.
EQUALLY OPAQUE in the events leading up to Arnold's departure for Tacoma is Arnold's motivation for finally accepting Palmer's offer to investigate. As Arnold described it later, it was almost a lark based on seeing if Palmer was sincere enough to forward the 200 dollars (a considerable amount at the time).
Yet Arnold was owner of a successful business with a wife and family also demanding his attention, and summer was Arnold's busiest season for his fire-control equipment business. And the driving motivation behind his decision -- beyond testing the sincerity of Raymond Palmer -- may possibly be discerned from a national news wire story. From the July 20, 1947 edition of the Walla Walla, Washington Union-Bulletin…
Man Who Reported 'Flying Saucers' Feels That He Has Been Vindicated
PENDLETON, Ore., July 19. (AP) Kenneth Arnold, Boise, Idaho, businessman who flies about western landscapes peering for flying saucers, says people no longer think him a crackpot.
As the man who reported nine disks as big as four-engined planes speeding over Western Washington June 25 and started a nationwide furor, Arnold found himself regarded as an air-struck businessman who had read too many futuristic stories.
Hundreds of letters, telegrams and phone calls overwhelmed him. Friends kidded him and strangers harried him. It got so he hated to go out on the street.
Now he walks with an assured tread and feels that he is vindicated.
"Everybody can't be seeing things," he says. "Even if only one percent of the reports are accurate, there is still something very unusual going on. I might doubt myself, but can't doubt such observers as Captain E.J. Smith, United Airlines pilot. And there's nothing wrong with my eyes, either."
His eyes red from long hours aloft squinting at the horizon, Arnold says he'll continue his search on daily business trips about the country. He is a flying agent for a fire protection equipment company. He carries a camera and intends to get a picture to "shove down the throat of those stiffnecked doubters."
The ex-University of Minnesota swimmer and footballer says he now believes:
1. The disks are not from any foreign country.
2. The Army could give the answer if it would -- "if they don't have the explanation now they certainly could do something to find out."
3. If the Army has no explanation the disks must be -- "and I know this sounds crazy" -- from another planet.
Arnold says his family never doubted him and he is pleased that hundreds write in their belief in him, but he is appalled at some of the frivolous reaction.
"Ladies wearing hats named flying saucers," he snorted. "Why they're just trying to laugh this off."
Then, after a minute's reflection, "but maybe it's a good thing, because it might be more serious than anyone but a few top ones realize."
And so the possibility that hard evidence might be found -- this time in the form of actual metal recovered from a flying saucer -- might have well been the deciding factor in Arnold's decision to go Tacoma...
...perhaps also with the thought in mind that at long last Arnold would have something to "shove down the throat of those stiffnecked doubters."
Oregon's La Grande valley, circa 1940.
LITTLE KNOWN TO MOST, according to Arnold's later writings it would be on the day he left Boise, Idaho for Tacoma, Washington to meet with Harold Dahl that Arnold would have his second reported sighting...
It was on the morning of July 29, 1947 that I took off from a private cow pasture near my home. It was about 5:30 a.m. I never told anyone of my plans as to when I was going to leave Boise or at what date I would arrive in Tacoma, though a number of my friends did know of my proposed trip. That day no one but my wife knew I had gone and I took off so early in the morning that I was quite sure no one else knew or made any special note of my leaving. I mention this here, and further stress another important point. I rarely file a flight plan. My plane at that time was not equipped with a radio, only a small receiver to obtain weather reports.
It was a beautiful summer morning the day I left Boise and I promptly climbed my aircraft to an altitude of 7,000 feet, flying the airway route to Pendleton, Oregon. I had only about half a tank of gasoline when I left and planned on stopping at La Grande, Oregon for refueling. A refuel at La Grande would carry me through to Tacoma. I stored no gasoline in the cow pasture that I had been using as a landing field and 5:30 in the morning was too early to obtain gas in Boise.
It was a perfect day to fly. The air was sharp, moist, clear as crystal and smooth as silk. There is something of a real thrill in flying on a day like that, with the endless drone of your motor telling you everything is working perfectly. Within an hour I was over Baker, Oregon. I can recall how the city sparkled in the sunlight as it lay below me, nestled in between two huge ranges of mountains. I began to let down over North Powder, Oregon in preparation to land at La Grande when I noticed above me and about ten miles to the right the Empire Airlines' old Boeing, also coming in to land at La Grande. There is something about having company in the air that always seems pleasant and friendly. I rocked my wings at him in a gesture of hello and continued my let down until I was directly over Union, Oregon at 5,000 feet.
I recall looking at my instrument clock which read about five minutes of seven. As I looked up from my instrument panel and straight ahead over the La Grade valley, I saw a cluster of about twenty to twenty-five brass-colored objects that looked like ducks. They were coming at me head on and at what seemed a terrific rate of speed. I grabbed my camera and started rolling out film. Even though I thought they were ducks when I first saw them, I wasn't taking any chances.
The sun was at my back and to my right. These objects were coming into the sun. I wasn't sighting through the viewfinder on my camera but was sighting along the side of it. As this group of objects came within 400 yards of me they veered sharply away from me and to their right, gaining altitude as they did so and fluttering and flashing a dull amber color. I was a little bit shocked and excited when I realized they had the same flight characteristics of the large objects that I had observed on June 24. These appeared to be round, rather rough on top, and to have a dark or a light spot on top of each one. I couldn't be absolutely positive of this because it all happened so suddenly. I attempted to make a turn and follow them but they disappeared to the east at a speed far in excess of my airplane. I knew they were not ducks because ducks don't fly that fast.
After a few minutes I gave up the chase and continued to let down at La Grande. I phoned Dave Johnson from there and related my experience but told him not to print it. I knew he had more than a newsworthy interest now in flying disks. I questioned the whole crew of the Empire Airlines ship to see if they had seen this cluster of objects, too. If they had seen them, they would not admit it, but there is a good possibility they did not see them. They were on almost their final approach to the La Grande airfield, their plane being much faster than mine, and this cluster of objects at the time would have been seven to nine hundred feet above them.
I heard later that several farmers in the vicinity of Union had observed what they thought a peculiar cluster of birds that same morning. I did not know of this until much later. Actually, they flew in a cluster more like blackbirds than ducks but each one was larger than a duck. I should judge some twenty-four to thirty inches in diameter. They rather wheeled on edge, flipping as they went as efficiently as when they were flat in reference to the surface of the ground. That morning I was pretty disappointed that no one around the airfield had seen them, to my knowledge.
I am fully familiar with the La Grande valley, the reservoirs, streams, and lakes that are all over this area in the summer and you can be sure, on the conservative side, that I felt positive these things were not birds. I was curious as to what my movie film had recorded. Later, after it was developed, I found that my movie try was not very successful. Only one or two of these objects could be found on my film and you could see them only under a jeweler's glass.
Ironically, it could be said that Arnold's report of a second sighting would be the most normal event of all that were to come over the next several days.
Downtown Tacoma, Washington circa 1947.
ACCORDING TO ARNOLD'S later account -- written five years after the events -- he had left Boise without telling anyone but his wife. Yet when he arrived in Tacoma it seems he was expected. Arnold picked up the story just after landing in La Grande...
I gassed up and flew on over almost the same route I had flown the day I observed the flying disks at Mount Rainier. It was late afternoon when I arrived at the Chehalis County Airport. I hadn't fully made up my mind as to whether I would stay overnight in Chehalis or fly on to Tacoma that night. I didn't tell anyone where I was going or why, although at the airport I think the subject of flying disks did come up for a short while. I steered the conversation away from the subject as it is pretty embarrassing to know that something is true and yet not be able to show any physical evidence of your convictions. After some forty-five minutes of hangar flying, I decided I would go on to Tacoma that evening.
It was dusk when I landed at Barry's Airport which is like a little airfield located down on the mud flats. I am sure that neither Barry nor his wife recognized me as the man whose picture had been in the newspapers connected with flying disk stories. I had Barry gas my airplane and tie it up for the night. I then proceeded to call all the hotels in town to see if I could get a room for the night. Barry's wife kept saying that getting a room in Tacoma was really difficult and that the housing shortage had been very acute there.
I don't know how many hotels and rooming houses I called. Finally, as a last resort and just for a lark, I called the Winthrop. I really didn't expect to find a room there as it was the largest and most prominent hotel in the city of Tacoma. It was sure to be full. I was quite shocked when I spoke to the room clerk and heard him say, "Yes, Mr. Arnold, we have a room and bath for you."
I recall asking him several times if he was sure that room was for Kenneth Arnold. He muttered something and evidently went back to his cards and papers. He came back over the telephone to tell me that yes, he had a room for me. I was positive he was mistaken. I thought maybe he did have a room reserved for a Mr. Kenneth Arnold, but it couldn't be me. I explained it to myself by thinking that another person by the same name had ordered the room and just by coincidence I happened to fall heir to it. I know the clerk didn't know me. I had never stayed at that hotel before in my life. However, I was desperate for a room and thought it was all a happy coincidence. Even if another Kenneth Arnold did show up after I had moved in he might be kind enough to let me share the room with him. When I think of it now it seems terribly odd but at the time I didn't give it much thought.
I went directly to the hotel, still puzzling over whose room I was going to get. While in Tacoma I wanted to be as quiet as possible about my presence. I thought that if any newspaper men found out I was there they would start running me ragged. I didn't want that. I thought that this flying disk business had gotten too far out of hand as it was.
When I arrived at the hotel, I demanded to see the room clerk who had given me the room. My conscience was beginning to bother me and I was sure the room clerk was mixed up. The clerk on duty told me that the room clerk I had talked to on the telephone was now off duty and he didn't know where I could reach him. There was quite a group of people waiting to talk to the clerk so rather than explaining it all to him I signed the register, grabbed the key, and went up to Room 502. It had twin beds and a bath. I was tired and dirty and once planted there it was going to be awfully hard to move me out.
As it would turn out -- again, according to Arnold -- no other "Kenneth Arnold" showed up, and Arnold would never find out who made the reservation in his name, or why whoever had made the reservation in his name had never notified Arnold.
Hotel Winthrop, Tacoma, Washington circa 1947.
THOUGH IT WAS already evening, and although he was dog tired after a day traveling and two unusual happenings, Arnold would later write that he would try to contact and see Dahl immediately...
While preparing my bath, I grabbed the telephone book and began looking for a Harold A. Dahl. There were several Dahls in the book. I phoned an H.A. Dahl and found that he was the fellow I had come to see. Mr. Dahl was not too anxious to talk to me. In fact, the first thing he said was why didn't I go back home and forget the whole business.
I thought this rather strange since so much smoke as his experience had caused, the story getting clear to Chicago and back to me, must mean that there was something to it. Mr. Dahl stated that he refused to talk about or discuss the matter of his experience or flying disks with anyone. I think I was on the line half an hour before I convinced him that whether his story was true or false, I had come all this way to talk to him and doggone it, I wouldn't go back home without an audience. He said that he had nothing but rough luck ever since the whole business started and that probably he and I both would be better off if we left the subject alone. His last words on the phone, however, were that he would come to the hotel to see me within half an hour.
I was tired and hungry. I had intended to make an appointment with Mr. Dahl for the next day but I was fairly bursting with curiosity as to what he would look like and what his experience had really been. I knew there were such things as flying saucers and if he had any pieces of one I could sure use some tangible evidence.
I was just dressing after my bath when Harold Dahl rapped on my door. I opened the door, still in the process of dressing, and I can honestly say I was never more surprised. I had always pictured in my mind that a person as superstitious as Mr. Dahl sounded over the phone would be a slightly built, sensitive type of character. Well, there he stood, over six feet two inches tall and well over two hundred pounds, as two fisted a lumberjack looking fellow as I ever saw. I am five feet ten and a half inches tall and weigh more than two hundred and fifteen pounds. I have never considered myself to be a small man but I suddenly thought maybe I had been a little too demanding and persistent over the phone.
I invited him in a little apologetically and started firing questions at him. He moved the large chair from near the dresser in between the two beds and let me rave on for a little while, not answering a single thing I asked him. He finally said, "Wait a minute, Mr. Arnold, not so fast. In talking with you there are quite a number of things I want you to consider, if you want me to tell my story to you. In fact, I think I better go home." He got up as if to leave, then continued. "Mr. Arnold, I still think it would be good advice to you. This flying saucer business is the most complicated thing you ever got mixed up in."
Right then and there I felt he was speaking the truth, but I wanted to untangle what seemed to me an awful mess. It looked like nobody wanted to put the public straight on any of it. Not that I thought it was my job, particularly, but I'd been given $200 for expenses to interview this fellow. If I was conservative I certainly wouldn't spend the whole $200 just listening to a man's story and reporting on it. Little did I know that I was going to spend six days at it and get mixed up in the doggonedest mystery a man could ever dream of.
That night, according to Arnold, Dahl would tell his fantastic story.
Above: Satellite, aerial and beach-level views of what was then called Maury Island.
THE TALE THAT DAHL WOULD TELL would enthrall Arnold, as he later wrote...
For nearly two hours Harold Dahl told me all of the sad experiences he had had since the 21st of June when he reported his sighting. He said you couldn't blame any of the experiences he had to anyone, that just by coincidence he nearly lost his son, his wife had become ill, that he had lost a tremendously good boom of logs that he had salvaged from the bay when an unusual tide had somehow broken the moorings one night. This was a major loss to his finances as the boom was worth over $3500. The engines on their boat wouldn't start in the mornings; the boat sprang leaks. All in all, he had had a horrible time in keeping from going completely broke financially and from losing his family and home through sickness or accident.
I tried to assure Harold that everybody has their ups and downs, that his tough luck could in no way be attributed to his sighting of flying saucers or to the fragments he had in his possession. I wanted to get to the bottom of this, regardless, and I didn't want to be frustrated by his superstitions. After what amounted to downright pleading on my part he finally related the following story.
"On June 21, 1947 in the afternoon about two o'clock, I was patrolling the east bay of Maury Island close in to the shore. This practically uninhabited island, lies directly opposite the city of Tacoma about three miles from the mainland. This day the sea was rather rough and there were numerous low-hanging clouds. I, as captain, was steering my patrol boat closer to the shore of a bay on Maury Island. On board were two crewmen, my fifteen-year-old son and his dog.
"As I looked up from the wheel on my boat I noticed six very large doughnut-shaped aircraft. I would judge they were at about 2,000 feet above the water and almost directly overhead. At first glance I thought them to be balloons as they seemed to be stationary. However, upon further observance, five of these strange aircraft were circling very slowly around the sixth one which was stationary in the center of the formation. It appeared to me that the center aircraft was in some kind of trouble as it was losing altitude fairly rapidly. The other aircraft stayed at a distance of about two hundred feet above the center one as if they were following the center one down. The center aircraft came to rest almost directly overhead at about five hundred feet above the water.
"All on board our boat were watching these aircraft with a great deal of interest as they apparently had no motors, propellers, or any visible signs of propulsion, and to the best of our hearing they made no sound. In describing the aircraft I would say they were at least one hundred feet in diameter. Each had a hole in the center, approximately twenty-five feet in diameter. They were all a sort of shell-like gold and silver color. Their surface seemed of metal and appeared to be burled because when the light shone on them through the clouds they were brilliant, not all one brilliance, but many brilliances, something like a Buick dashboard. All of the aircraft seemed to have large portholes equally spaced around the outside of their doughnut exterior. These portholes were from five to six feet in diameter and were round. They also appeared to have a dark, circular, continuous window on the inside and bottom of their doughnut shape as though it were an observation window.
"All of us aboard the boat were afraid this center balloon was going to crash in the bay, and just a little while before it stopped lowering, we had pulled our boat over to the beach and got out with our harbor patrol camera. I took three or four photographs of these balloons.
"The center balloon-like aircraft remained stationary at about five hundred feet from the water while the other five aircraft kept circling over it. After about five or six minutes one of the aircraft from the circling formation left its place in the formation and lowered itself down right next to the stationary aircraft. In fact, it appeared to touch it and stayed stationary next to the center aircraft as if it were giving some kind of assistance for about three or four minutes.
"It was then we heard a dull thud, like an underground explosion or a thud similar to a man stamping his heel on damp ground. Immediately following this sound the center aircraft began spewing forth what seemed like thousands of newspapers and from somewhere on the inside of its center. These newspapers, which turned out to be a white type of very light weight metal, fluttered to earth, most of them lighting in the bay. It then seemed to hail on us, in the bay and over the beach, black or darker type metal which looked similar to lava rock. We did not know if this metal was coming from the aircraft but assumed that it was, as it fell at the same time that the white type metal was falling. However, since these fragments were of a darker color, we did not observe them until they started hitting the beach and the bay. All of these latter fragments seemed hot, almost molten. When they hit the bay, steam rose from the water.
"We ran for the shelter under a cliff on the beach and behind logs to protect ourselves from the falling debris. In spite of our precaution, my son's arm was injured by one of the falling fragments and our dog was hit and killed. We buried the dog at sea on our return trip to Tacoma.
"After this rain of metal seemed over, all of these strange aircraft lifted slowly and drifted out to the westward, which is out to sea. They rose and disappeared at a tremendous height. The center aircraft, which had spewed the debris, did not seem to be hindered in its flight and still remained in the center of the formation as they all rose and disappeared out to sea.
"We tried to pick up several pieces of the metal or fragments and found them very hot -- in fact, I almost burned my fingers -- but after some of them had cooled we loaded a considerable number of the pieces aboard the boat. We also picked up some of the metal which had looked like falling newspapers.
"My crew and I discussed this observance for awhile and I attempted to radio from my patrol boat back to my base. The static was so great it was impossible for me to reach my radio station. This I attributed to the presence of these aircraft, as my radio had been in perfect operating order and the weather would not have caused this amount of interference.
"The wheelhouse on our boat had been hit by the falling debris and damaged. We immediately started our engines and went directly to Tacoma, where my boy was given first aid at the hospital there. Upon reaching the dock I had to tell my superior officer how the boat had been damaged and why the dog had not returned with us. I related our experience to Fred L. Crisman, my superior officer. I could plainly see that he did not believe it and I guess I don't blame him, but we gave him the camera with its film and the fragments of metal we had loaded aboard as proof of our story. Fred L. Crisman decided he would at least go and investigate the beach where I judged at least twenty tons of the debris had fallen.
"I might add that these strange aircraft appeared completely round, but seemed a little squashed on the top and on the bottom as if you placed a large board on an inner tube and squashed it slightly. The film from our camera, developed, showed these strange aircraft, but the negatives were covered with spots similar to a negative that has been close to an x-ray room before it has been exposed except that the spots printed white instead of black as in the usual case."
This was the story that Harold A. Dahl related to me the evening of July 29, 1947 in Room 502 in the Winthrop Hotel in Tacoma, Washington.
Arnold's portrayal of Dahl's story is revealing in several respects. First, though Arnold says that Dahl referred to Fred Crisman as his "superior officer", in fact the "Tacoma Harbor Patrol" -- according to an FBI investigative report dated August 19, 1947 -- was the name of a privately owned for-profit business enterprise seeking to charge owners of vacation homes on the island for keeping an eye out on their properties during the owner's absence. Dahl's primary income appears to have been tied to his work salvaging logs from Puget Sound for sale to lumber buyers. Whether the "Tacoma Harbor Patrol" was owned by Dahl or by Crisman -- or by both -- remains murky to this day. But neither Dahl nor Crisman were "harbor patrolmen" in the classic maritime sense of civil law enforcement and rescue, though Arnold would refer to Dahl and Crisman as "harbor patrolmen at Tacoma" when later telling the story of his time there.
Also of interest is the fact that Dahl's story is presented by Arnold as a verbatim quote of what was said by Dahl that night. Yet Dahl's 1200-word account -- if taken as an actual verbatim quote -- is notable for its lack of even one errant word or stray thought, spoken with a preciseness that easily and naturally transcribed into paragraph form. Equally notable -- again, if taken as an actual verbatim quote -- was Dahl's syntax and breath control, as in when he states...
"The film from our camera, developed, showed these strange aircraft, but the negatives were covered with spots similar to a negative that has been close to an x-ray room before it has been exposed except that the spots printed white instead of black as in the usual case."
Arnold's motivation in designating Dahl and Crisman as "harbor patrolmen" with official ranks, as well as in making Harold Dahl seem particularly well-spoken seems clear -- to impart to Dahl and Crisman a kind of legitimacy that wasn't theirs by right.
But such was the tale that Kenneth Arnold says Harold A. Dahl related to him that night...
...though Dahl would confess to even stranger and darker happenings as the night wore on.
1. The title of this series is taken from two statements made by Kenneth Arnold -- once to the press and once to the military -- stating that his story was "positively true".
2. Though Arnold says above that he sent Palmer "a carbon copy of the report I had sent the commanding officer of Wright-Patterson Field" it is likely that the "report" was originally written as an article to be published in response to Palmer's request and offer of payment, and that it was a copy of this provided to Wright-Patterson. See notes in Part Four of this series for further detail on this.
3. The "ERNIE VOGEL" referred to in the FBI report is actually "ELMER VOGEL". The reason for the discrepancy in the report is unknown. Also, where it says that Vogel thinks he went to Dahl's house in the "early part of June" should probably be "late part of June" as it also notes that this was "just a few days after the first flying disc stories had appeared in the paper".
Whether you need some serious styling for your walls at home or work or are on the lookout to give someone a special gift they'll treasure forever, you support the work of Saturday Night Uforia whenever you shop for great posters from AllPosters.com from any link at this site -- any, each, and every time you start your shopping from here. You still get the same great deal as your friends and family, but a little will be sent back our way as a thank you from AllPosters.com. And you'll have the extra satisfaction of directly supporting the work of Saturday Night Uforia while treating yourself or friends to something special... like any of these great sci-fi movie posters (you can even have them mounted, laminated, or framed). Just click on the pic for a larger version...