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in the news 1948



Above: Cover art and opening pages of the May, 1948 issue of Popular Science. The caption at the upper left reads: "Unmanned research balloon soars upward, dangling its 70-lb. payload of weather instruments on line from open ring at bottom. Here, soon after launching, gas fills only tip of bag. As it rises, gas expands until at 100,000 feet it fills the entire balloon." The short sidebar, in black at the bottom, was the only mention of flying saucers. Story below.

MAY 2, 1948 THROUGH JULY 23, 1948:

Minneapolis, Minnesota Sunday Tribune - 2 May 48

Off the Avenue
by H.L.C.

Remember last summer when there was all the "flying saucer" talk? Well, it's just possible that the "saucers" (if there were such things) started their flying right here in Minnesota. Up at Little Falls, Minnesota, the U.S. Navy, with the co-operation of General Mills, is conducting experiments known as Project Skyhook.

Tissue thin, plastic balloons carry a string of instruments to determine weather conditions, speed of sound, composition of air, measure cosmic rays, and so on. On launching, the helium content of the balloon makes a bubble 17 feet in diameter when the balloon reaches an altitude of 20 miles it has a diameter of 70 feet due to expansion. After a predetermined time, a parachute cuts loose and float the instruments to the ground -- the balloon disintegrates.

It's just possible these balloons might have been what people called "flying saucers" ... just possible, I say. So if you're walking along with a friend some day and he grabs your arm and says, "Look, a flying saucer" you can nod knowingly and say, "Probably Project Skyhook!"

Popular Science - May 48

Are Secret Balloons the Flying Saucers?

The saucers could be sun reflections on low clouds, or they could be flattened hailstones, gliding down toward the earth.

Then the saucers could be Army weather radiosonde balloons, fitted with radar reflectors.

* * *

An Australian teacher showed his students that with prolonged gazing red corpuscles passed in front of the retina of the eye. As a result they "saw" objects in the sky.

One sure-fire flying saucer that fell to the earth in New Mexico turned out to be a weather balloon. Another, near New York, was just a cluster of balloons carrying cosmic ray equipment.

One educational authority suggested that seeing flying saucers was merely a case of the "meteorological jitters."

Another, that they were meteors.

* * *

Still another explanation: speeding airplanes churn up the atmosphere and cause distortion of light rays. The resulting phenomena could be electrical in nature, causing something like some rings in the sky.

* * *

A not implausible explanation was based on the high reflective qualities of glass. Why couldn't the saucers be sunlight reflected by plane windows?

At left above is a pretty convincing picture of a flying saucer.

It was created by Popular Science photographers in their own studio. By altering lighting on table-tennis ball at right, above, they simulated natural light on high-altitude balloons for effect at left.

* * *

And that's how your eyes can deceive you. Your guess is as good as the next.

Popular Science - May 48

Twenty miles above the earth, the U.S. Navy is hanging its laboratories in space. Balloons that swell to 77 times their starting size provide the floating platforms.

New Balloons Explore
Roof of the Airways

By Devon Francis

LITTLE FALLS, Minn -- In the brilliant Minnesota sky floats a pin point of light. To the unpracticed eye, it is only a meaningless white speck against the midday firmament. But to a cluster of men tracking its course by radio direction finder, radar, and theodolite, it represents the culmination of half a century of effort to throw light on some of this planet's darkest mysteries.

Such pin points, think the men who track them, may be the innocent source of the "flying saucer" stories. Actually, the one we are watching is an unmanned balloon, 100,000 feet above the earth. Never before has anything but a rocket gone that high. When the balloon was launched a little more than an hour ago, its helium content made a semi-transparent bubble only 17 feet in diameter. Now almost 20 miles above us, it has expanded to a great 100-foot-tall envelope measuring 70 feet in diameter.

Expansion did that. At 100,000 feet the air is only 1/100 as dense as it is at sea level. The helium is pushing, seeking release, despite a temperature so low that if a man were exposed to it he would die within a minute. Though the sun is at its zenith, the balloon floats in darkness under a canopy of stars, for the darkness at its altitude is eternal.


Helium is piped through thin, extruded-plastic tube to form 17-foot bubble. Tapelike line stretching toward truck is rest of balloon envelope. Helium-bottle dolly is at rear of truck.


Flow of helium from steel bottles into manifold, for piping to balloon envelope, is adjusted by technician. At start, only 1.3 percent of the balloon's capacity is filled by the gas.


Plastic balloon skin, forwarded to PS by reporter Francis, is polyethylene. It absorbs few infrared rays, and is unaffected by ultraviolet light, unlike some plastics, or by temperature.

From a harness at its open end dangles a long load line, and to the line are attached a limp parachute and a string of instruments. These instruments are all-important -- the balloon is only the vehicle used to deliver them to the altitude that scientists want to explore.

Yet the balloon is the focal point of observation from the ground. That is because the answers to the questions asked by chemists, physicists, and others depend on its behavior. Presently an electric charge timed by a tiny motor will melt a bit of wire, a razor-edged knife will sever the load line above the parachute, and the instruments will start their long journey to the ground.


At launching, helium bubble sails up, picking up load line. Apparatus weighing up to 70 lb. can be attached to it. Dark line seen in the final picture, far right, is the parachute.

This is Project Skyhook. No explorations initiated in this postwar period are more pregnant with meaning for the future than this one, carried out by General Mills, Inc. of Minneapolis, for the United States Navy.

"Where our balloons now float," explained Otto C. Winzen, "will be man's highway of tomorrow." He is the young engineer who started the project and brought it to fruition for the Aeronautical Research Laboratories of General Mills.

Those balloons are probing a region that as yet is almost wholly unknown. A few conditions up there have been discovered. It is bitter cold -- yet the sun's rays burn with fury far beyond that met anywhere on earth. Gravitational pull is practically unchanged. Winds often exceed 100 m.p.h.

But what about the composition of the air? The effect of cosmic rays on man and atomic structures? The speed of sound? What conditions will pilots encounter if wars are fought at that altitude?

Airplanes can't supply the answers. They can't get much more than half that high. Small rubber sounding balloons reach only the lower levels of the atmosphere. The record for manned balloons is only 72,395 feet. Rockets streaking up and down through this layer of the atmosphere go too fast to take adequate observations.

What is needed is an instrument platform that is relatively stable and motionless in relation to the air -- one that will reach and hold a precalculated ceiling of around 20 miles for hours or even days.

Hence, a new kind of balloon. No balloon ever made before is like those of the Aeronautical Research Laboratories. Their skin is tissue-thin. Yet these balloons carry a "payload" of 7/ 10 of their empty weight.

Science's secret weapon in this assault on the unknown is a plastic, polyethylene resin. Made by the Viking Corp., of Terre Haute, Ind., it weighs so little that one strong man can lift a whole deflated balloon.

Radiosondes, parachutes, tiny radio transmitting stations, radar reflectors, cosmic ray counters, special telemetering equipment, and other devices, about which the government maintains secrecy, have been sent aloft under a single plastic bubble.


Full 206,000-cubic-foot capacity of bag, when it has swollen to the size of several houses, is reached at 100,000 feet or so. If winds are high, bag may be blown out of sight in an hour.


Sandbag at anchor conceals secret device for cutting anchor line electrically at launching. Knife is used in emergency. Balloon will rise above normal airplane traffic in 12 minutes.


Aneroid cell -- reliable only up to about 60,000 feet -- uses air pressure to run this instrument that records altitude. During climb, stylus etches line on glass coated with lamp black.

For excitement, the launching of a plastic balloon is the next best thing to putting your last two dollars on a long shot at Hialeah. The weather must be good for observation. The wind cannot be too high; the plastic is fragile and subject to tearing.

First of all come safety precautions for other aircraft. The chances of collision are remote, but the Civil Aeronautics Administration and the Weather Bureau are advised of each flight in advance.

A ten-wheeled truck snakes a train of anchor boxes, special launching equipment, a helium-bottle dolly, wiring for the electrical cutting of chords holding the load line, and other such paraphernalia onto the field, about a hundred miles from Minneapolis. This permanent site was chosen because it is remote, free from intrusion, and off the scheduled airways.

The top of the balloon, where the helium bubble will develop, is laid out in the lee of an unused airplane hangar to protect it from the wind. The rest of the envelope is strung downward with all the gentleness of a mother's caress. As an extension of the downwind line, the load line, complete with its parachute and instruments, is hung on forked standards and anchored by boxes of sand. The load line must be put under exactly the right amount of tension. A slack line might cause an instrument to snap off when the helium bubble is released. That has happened.

The input of gas is measured volumetrically. Wind velocity and direction are checked minute by minute. If the wind shifts, the direction of takeoff must be aligned with it.

Now is the time. A tube, also of plastic, which has been feeding helium to the balloon is withdrawn. Wrenches close the gas bottles. The truck hauls away the dolly. One man prepares to release the bubble. Two others stand within sprinting distance of the anchor points -- there may be an emergency. A hundred feet to the side a fourth man will close successive circuits to chop the anchor cords.

The man in charge picks up a megaphone. "Set?" The men downwind respond individually .  .  .  "All set."

The bubble soars. As it picks up the folds, the balloon becomes a cobra. For a second or two it writhes. It weaves. Now it has seized the load line. Up goes the parachute. As fast as the tongue can name them off, instruments, radar screens, radiosonde, and finally a bag of sand for ballast are airborne. The sand bag goes along only if there is a shortage of instruments, sent in for the flights by colleges and other institutions collaborating on fundamental upper-air research.


Either alarm clock, far left, or miniature, battery-fed motor with reduction gear, far right, is used to time release of parachute. Shown between them is load-line cutter. Upper-air research was started under auspices of Special Devices Center, Office of Naval Research, Port Washington, N.Y.; is directed by T.R. James, head of company's Aeronautical Research Lab.


Radiosonde contains, from top, tiny radio sender, battery, and baro-switch unit. Switch, run by aneroid cell, selects circuits for sending back temperature, humidity, and air pressure.


Aneroid-tripped electric light is hitched to parachute to warn aircraft when descent is made after dark. Cell cocks on way up, switches on flashing light at 20,000-foot level on way down.

Tracking a Soaring Laboratory

The work has only begun. Now the balloon must be tracked. Its trajectory provides valuable meteorological data. One man goes to the theodolite. The rest of the crew clumps upstairs to the field control tower above the hangar.

Tracking is going on in other places, too. Within a diamond-shaped pattern 100 miles long and 60 wide, observers aground are sending in azimuth and elevation reports as frequently as once a minute. Radio direction finders and radar equipment are trained on the balloon. Four shortwave radio communication stations correlate all this information, and it is entered on charts for future study.

Not much more than an hour has passed; the balloon has leveled out at about 100,000 feet, its ceiling. Through the theodolite telescope it looks like a translucent pear, less than half the size of a pea. Its load is not visible. Even if its parachute was large enough to be seen, its red color would reflect no light to the eye.

Hours of methodical receipt and entry of reports on the balloon's course go by. Suddenly, the man on the theodolite reports: "Parachute's cut loose! Balloon's in four pieces!"

A telephone rings. "Right," says the man on duty, answering, "Four pieces at 4:27. We caught it." That was an observer calling in. A voice pages the tower on the shortwave: "Broke into four pieces at 4:27."

Shock from inertia forces alone, induced by the balloon losing its load, destroys the delicate envelope to keep it from wandering around aimlessly in the sky.

The day's chores are done now. In anywhere from a half hour to an hour the parachute will touch the ground and collapse. Attached to the radiosonde are directions for the finder: please ship the parachute and instruments back. That system is unavoidable. Only now and then can the parachute be tracked by radar.

Few parachutes and instruments have been lost, out of scores of flights. Some remitters don't use their heads, of course. One cut a couple of precious shroud lines off the parachute to wrap his package for the post office. Another man, a trapper who stumbled on the gimmicks in the wilds of the north country, pulled his gun and shot up a couple of instruments.

The project is still experimental in that research never ends. For example, around 70,000 feet the radio transmitters may begin arcing between terminals because the air becomes too thin to act as a non-conductor. Something must be done about that.

Temperature-measuring equipment is also inadequate. It gives, not the temperature of the free air; but that of the air plus solar radiation effect. No instruments have yet been developed to measure pressure and dew-point accurately between 80,000 and 100,000 feet and telemeter the data back.

These are details. The end product of upper air exploration is a better understanding of our planet. Cosmic radiation and meteorological research alone will yield results that will benefit all mankind.

That realization helps the men get their feet on the floor when the alarm goes off at 3 a.m., signaling another day to fly a balloon.

Albany, New York Ledger - 6 May 48

Russians Possess Guided Rocket, U.S. Army Reveals

WASHINGTON -- The army disclosed that Russia possesses a guided missile with twice the range of the V-2's being tested here.

The missile was developed by the Germans, who also produced the V-2 rocket captured by the Americans and now undergoing tests at White Sands, N.M.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Inquirer - 8 May 48

'Flying Saucers' Appear in Greece

ATHENS, May 7 (UP). -- The "flying saucer" made its first appearance today on the troubled northern frontier of Greece, Athens newspapers reported.

Press dispatches said that a "flying disc," traveling fast at a height of about 4000 feet, was sighted by residents of the Lake Doiran area on the Greek-Yugoslav frontier. It was flying southward from Yugoslavia over Greece and reportedly whistled like an artillery shell.

Murphysboro, Illinois Daily Independent - 11 May 48

Another Big Bird Seen

MT. VERNON, ILL., May 11-- (AP) Remember the flying saucers? Now comes Mr. and Mrs. Harry Eller reporting they watched "a monstrous luminous bird" flying over Mt. Vernon for an hour last night.

"Birds" of varying descriptions but all purportedly large have been reported recently in the St. Louis area, too.

Binghamton, New York Press - 19 May 48

Matter of Fact.
By Tom Cawley

... A woman who saw a flying saucer last July says she say [sic] another this week just over Crowley's milk plant on Conklin Avenue. They back again? ...

Lansing, Michigan State Journal - 20 May 48

City in Brief

The "flying saucers" are with us again. Mrs. John Romanek, 628 Smith avenue, said Thursday night that when she and her son, Richard Romanek, 305 North Butler boulevard, and a party of friends were motoring here from Jackson they saw several of the so-called "flying saucers" in the western sky between Jackson and Leslie.

Rochester, New York Democrat and Chronicle - 27 May 48

'Saucer' Believed Weather Device

Possibility that a "flying saucer" reported seen near Hilton Tuesday was an instrument used to gather weather data was advanced yesterday by Chief Forecaster John M. Williams of the local Weather Bureau.

The "saucer" was reported sighted about 2:45 p.m. Tuesday near Hill and Burritt Rds. by Mr. and Mrs. Walter Cole, 325 River St. The couple said the "saucer" appeared to be about four feet in diameter and that it flew level for about five minutes before it turned edgewise and disappeared.

Williams said the supposed "saucer" might have been a radiosonde released by the Buffalo Weather Bureau. Such a device, which measures temperature, pressure and humitity [sic], is silver in color and is carried aloft by a balloon, Williams explained. The instruments have not been used by local observers in the last six months, he said.

Rockdale, Texas Reporter - 27 May 48

Rambling 'Round Rockdale
With W.H.C.

Not much has been said about the flying saucers lately, but along come Mr. and Mrs. W.F. Luckey, of route 3, to tell me they saw one Saturday before last. And no fooling, either, they insist.

Mr. and Mrs. Luckey live at the Horton station just north of Rockdale. They say they were sitting on their back porch when they spied the flying disc. "It was going southwest at about the speed airplanes fly around here, but the wind was out of the south," Mr. Luckey said. "Best I could tell," he continued, "It was round and looked like a silver saucer; very shiny. In fact, it was so bright we could hardly look at it. There was no noise like you hear from an airplane. We watched it until it went out of sight.

Long Beach, California Independent - 31 May 48

Sees Flying Saucers!

Flying saucers ... !

They're in Long Beach again. Mrs. Eva Woodward, 759-B Termino avenue, said she got off the bus last night at Seventh street and Termino avenue, glanced up in the sky -- and there they were!

She said they were pretty good-sized and were skittering off toward the foothills when she spotted them.

"I'm positive they weren't planes," Mrs. Woodward said. "They were sort of pear-shaped and whirling around in circles after each other."

No, Mrs. Woodward said, she didn't see any coffee cups.

Popular Mechanics - Jun 48

Electronic Calculator Has 12,500-Tube Brain

Remembering a telephone number is simple for a new electronic calculator with a memory capacity of 400,000 digits. The new machine, built by International Business Machines Corp., is the first to combine electronic calculating speed, vast memory capacity and highly flexible facilities. Numbers to be recalled most quickly are held in electronic circuits while others are stored in relays and as holes in continuous paper tapes. By using punch cards, its memory capacity is almost limitless. It can add or subtract every second 3500 numbers of 19 digits each; it can multiply every second 50 numbers of 14 digits each or divide 20 numbers of 14 digits. To make this possible it has a circuit containing 12,500 tubes. The machine will eliminate much expensive experimentation by finding the answer mathematically. Heretofore such "testing" has been too laborious and time-consuming to be practical.

Altoona, Pennsylvania Mirror - 1 Jun 48

Flying Saucer Is New Look In Language of United States

CHICAGO, June 1. -- (NEA) -- The American language got "the new look" last year.

That phrase, and score of other new words and new meanings for old ones, have made the nation's vocabulary still longer, according to the 1948 Britannica Book of the Year.

Science provided dozens of the new terms, but economic and political problems also created words to reflect new conditions and new ideas: "Benelux," "Bizonia," "cold war," "Cominform," "crypto-Communist," "Marshall plan" and "police state," for example.

The Britannica includes the following expressions in its list of more than 100 new words and meanings:

"Baby sit: To sit with a baby while its parents are out.

"Chain reaction: (Figurative) A series of results, one caused by another.

"Diapene: Trade name of a bactericide for diaper rash.

"Dollar crisis: Condition resulting when a country whose exports to the United States fail to balance its imports begins using up its dollars.

"ERP: European recovery plan: The Marshall plan.

"Flying saucer: One of a number of mysterious objects, first sighted over Oregon June 24, 1947, and later at other places, flying at great heights and at high speeds. Though the saucers were attributed in part to hallucinations resulting from mass hysteria, many were not satisfactorily explained.

"Freedom train: A seven-car train, sponsored by the American Heritage foundation, containing an exhibit of important United States historical documents, which were displayed at various cities and towns throughout the United States.

"Hurricane-hunter plane: An aeroplane for searching out and locating hurricanes.

"MANIAC: The mechanical and numerical integrater [sic] and calculator, a calculating machine invented by John von Neumann.

"Seeding: The dropping of chemicals, such as dry ice, from an aeroplane into a cloud to induce condensation.

"Spice; British. An operator on the black market; a minor racketeer. "Trumanburger: A meat substitute (bun sandwich, whose filling consists of mashed beans and barbecue sauce.)

"UMT: Universal military training program.

"Venture (adjective): Not controlled; as, venture money, money one is willing to risk in a new enterprise."

Bubble gum was in there, too.

Asheville, North Carolina Citizen - 1 Jun 48

Flying Object Reported Seen In Wilmington

WILMINGTON, May 31. (AP) -- Wilmington residents today reported another mystery object in the sky, but it was not another flying saucer.

An object which emitted smoke, about as "big as your arm, and about three feet long," which traveled at an "awfully high altitude, and at first at a fast speed, came from the direction of Bluethenthal airport at 1:20 p.m. over the Cape Fear river, then veered at a low rate of speed back toward Wrightsville beach, a little to the west," Mrs. H.D. Alspach, who lives at 709 South sixth street, said.

Mrs. Alspach, said that her sister who lives near, called her to look at the strange object. Mrs. Charles Colvin is the sister and reportedly saw the object first. Mrs. H.D. Hufham, another neighbor said she saw it too.

Local officials of the Civil Aeronautics administration said that there were no jet-powered aircraft in the vicinity at the time.

Linton, Indiana Daily Citizen - 1 Jun 48

Mine Run

... Those "flying saucers" we heard so much about a few months ago have been written and talked "to death," but your col'm [sic] conductor saw a possible explanation for them Sunday night. In the northwest sky, just before sunset, were some very bright objects -- at first glance they did seem to be "flying saucers." A closer look, however, showed that the "discs" were caused by a freak atmospheric condition which reflected the light of the setting sun on some wispy clouds. There appeared to be about a dozen of the "discs" in the sky.

When the sun went down it was seen that there couldn't be any doubt about what caused this particular dozen or so of "saucers." With the passing of the sun's reflection, almost exactly where the "discs" had appeared, were the feathers of clouds, in the same relative position that the saucers had occupied. ...

Winnipeg, Canada Tribune - 5 Jun 48

Sparkling Body in Skies Outmodes 'Flying Saucer'

Flying saucers, a 1947 phenomenon, are passe nowadays as far as Winnipeg sky-gazers are concerned.

Residents of the wester section of the city claimed they observed a strange object in the sky between 9.30 and 10.30 p.m. Friday.

A Valour Road resident described it as a "dark red dot, changing to blue and red dots."

A man on Strathcona St. spoke of it as a "brilliant glow with sparks falling from it." He said " it had been swinging up and down like a pendulum over Polo Park."

Others telephoned The Tribune but more associated the object with the flying disc.

The weather office gave the best explanation. They thought it might be a weather balloon released at 9.30 p.m., which headed west.

Oakland, California Tribune - 5 Jun 48

Other Fellow
By Ad Schuster

After having read the news stories, about the only thing we understand about that great telescope at Palomar is that it "works with mirrors." You can't look through it at a planet, star, apartment house or the cost of living for, like a camera, it does its own looking, records the results, and in its own time, gives you a chance to puzzle over the results. Scientists speak of it as they would of their new grandsons, saying that "no one knows how important it may turn out to be," and that, we think, is also important as revealing the scientific attitude.

Those of us who are not scientists know everything, or almost everything. When in some details we are doubtful, we turn the business over to our imaginations. Let the astronomers reveal they have something which just might be marvelous, and that is enough for us. We are to see comic or cosmic strip characters playing pingpong on Mars; answer the $64 question concerning the origin of flying saucers; and be ready to settle all doubts as to the whereabouts of Buck Rogers. At a time when we do not know how to make use of the things we have, Palomar is to show us other things we never knew existed.

If we become rich enough one of these days every person will have a Palomar telescope of his own. Then we can dismiss as unimportant mere neighbors who are within shooting distance and give our attention to those who are so far off that they can in no ways be influenced by our advice.

Twin Falls, Idaho News - 16 Jun 48

USAF Will Try For 1,700 MPH Speed in Flights

WASHINGTON, June 16 (AP) -- The air force plans to send its Bell X-l rocket plane hurtling toward 1,700 miles an hour in a new series of high altitude speed tests beyond nature's "sonic wall."

This was learned today from persons familiar with the long range program for investigating supersonic flight. That strange -- and until last year unexplored -- region of speeds faster than sound [sic, entire sentence].

Five men are known to have smashed through that barrier at altitudes generally about eight to 10 miles above the earth.

The new tests are expected to take the rocket ship up to 80,000 feet -- about 15 miles -- which would be the highest man has ever attained. Two army fliers set the world record of 72,394 feet in a balloon in 1935. The highest plane mark is 59,492 feet, set in March by a British Jet fighter.

Twin Falls, Idaho News - 16 Jun 48

Third Strange Light Reported Seen in Sky by Emerson Pair

EMERSON, June 16 -- Adding to the mystery of strange flashes of light seen streaking across southern skies in two sections of Magic Valley at 10:30 p.m. Friday, is the report of Mr. and Mrs. L.H. Peterson who saw two balls of fire speeding across the sky near Burley at the same time Friday.

Mrs. Peterson said, "As we were coming from Burley at about 10:30 p. m. Friday, we saw a flash, almost like lightning, that lit up the whole inside of the car for an instant.

"As I glanced up into the sky it looked like two balls of fire hit together, bursting and showering sparks on the countryside. They were gone in an instant."

She pointed out she didn't think it was lightning as there were no clouds in the sky and there hadn't been any previous flashes in the sky before or after the strange light.

They were traveling on the north side of Snake river going toward the Emerson school, but the flash appeared to be on the south side in the vicinity of Starrhs Ferry about three miles west of Burley.

The other flashes, seen at approximately the same time, were reported by Mel Puckett and Richard Halls, near Hollister, and A.J. Meeks and Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Schneider, near Hagerman.

Puckett and Halls reported seeing two distinct flashes while driving about 12 miles west of Hollister. The first flash lighted up the whole countryside allowing sagebrush and rocks to be seen clearly. The flash was in line with Elk mountain about 20 miles from their location.

The other phenomenon was reported to be like a ball of fire speeding across the horizon south of Hagerman. Schneider described the ball as looking like a burning airplane crashing in a spiral to the ground.

Meeks described the ball of flame to be tear-drop in shape and to look something like a meteor.

In all three cases neither heard any explosions or noise before or after seeing the strange light.

Idaho Falls, Idaho Post-Register - 23 Jun 48

Flying Disc Excitement Started Year Ago Today

BOISE, June 23. (AP) -- Remember the flying discs?

It was just a year ago on June 24 that Kenneth Arnold, Boise businessman and pilot, reported that between Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams in Washington he had seen nine objects flying at an incredible speed.

Arnold wasn't the only one.

A man whose identity the air force has not revealed (at that man's request) told military intelligence officers that from Mt. Baker in the same vicinity, he watched nine objects through field glasses.

Sketch Identical

A sketch which accompanied his report was almost identical with a rough drawing by Arnold.

Then, a day or two after Arnold's report the deluge began.

Newspaper, police, FBI, army, air forces and others were flooded with reports from persons who had seen strange things in the sky.

All the stories had the same general tenor. The objects were disc shaped, some trailed vapor. All flew at terrific speeds.

Within a week the disc stories had come from 26 states and a dozen foreign nations.

Pilot Reports Seeing Them

One of the most convincing stories came from a United Airlines pilot, Capt. E.J. Smith.

Smith, his copilot and the stewardess on a plane bound from Boise to Seattle saw nine of the objects near Emmett.

Smith said the objects were sighted in flights of four and five. He said they flew close to his plane, then withdrew. Later they crossed the path of his plane and disappeared in the darkness.

He said the objects were not other airplanes. They were flat and were flying in a loose formation, sometimes drawing together and then spreading out.

Later other airline pilots saw discs.

"If these objects are experimental aircraft I wish they'd keep the damned things off the civil airways," one airline pilot said.

Planes Sent Up

It was on July 4 that hundreds of people in Portland, Ore., including policemen, saw about 20 silvery objects flashing through the sky. National guard planes went up to investigate, but nothing was learned.

Practical jokers had their day, too.

Some youngsters at Twin Falls built a strange looking contraption and planted it in a yard "to see the excitement."

Agents of the federal bureau of investigation and army intelligence were called. A censorship was clamped on all pictures. The city was in considerable [sic] of an uproar. Then the youngsters confessed it was a hoax.

One was reported to have crashed in New Mexico. It turned out to be a weather balloon.

Meanwhile, three explanations have been advanced:

1. Hallucinations, pure and simple.

2. Secret weapons, this country's or a device from a foreign power.

3. Inhabitants of another planet have been looking this one over.

As to the first, a fourth air force intelligence officer said too many people have said they saw the same things to have been hallucination.

Before he retired as chief of the air force, General Carl Spaatz said the possibility of the discs being experiments by other nations couldn't be eliminated.

If the discs were involved in American experiments, no one has seen fit to say so.

As to number three - what's your answer?

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Press - 27 Jun 48

Washington Calling
A Weekly Size-Up by the Capital Staff Of The Scripps-Howard Newspapers

WASHINGTON, June 26 -- U.S. troops -- everywhere in the world -- have secret orders to watch for unidentified airplanes and flying discs.

This was learned today on high authority.

Through mistake, word leaked that Frankfort had been alerted. This gave impression it was considered chief danger spot. Fact is, order was world-wide.

Army has never said out loud that flying discs exist, are of military importance. Last summer, it laughed them off front pages. We told you then they were taken seriously in inner circles. This confirms it.

Long Beach, California Press-Telegram - 27 Jun 48


NO 'SAUCER' -- S-Sgts. Oliver Nash and Donald Mathison are shown in the center picture examining an Air Forces instrument for taking weather observations at altitudes up to 70,000 feet. The device consists of a large balloon, a parachute just under the balloon and a small radio which transmits weather data to the ground. Remnants of the machine have sometimes been reported as part of "flying discs." At the left Pfc. George Rainville is shown at the ground receiver where impulses from the balloon's radio are recorded. At the right S-Sgt. Mathison is shown at the radar machine which is used to track the balloon in flight. The photographs are by Charles Tally, Press-Telegram staff photographer.

Weather Testing Device Often Mistaken for 'Disc'

THIS may help answer some of the old "flying saucer" questions.

Yesterday, the weather station at the Long Beach Air Reserve Training Detachment, revealed details of a weather device for recording moisture content of the air, temperature, pressure, wind direction and velocity at altitudes up to 70,000 feet.

Maj. B.N. Charles, head of the Bureau, said that Air Force stations have received many calls from people who had viewed or picked up portions of the device thinking that they were part of the so-called "flying discs."

Maj. Charles said that the large balloon to which the instrument is suspended enlarges as it gains altitudes and might resemble a disc.

The device actually consists of a balloon from which is suspended a parachute and a radio transmitter. As the balloon ascends, the transmitter sends out information which is tabulated at a ground station.

Balloon Explodes

When the balloon reaches altitudes of around 70,000 feet it explodes and the parachute eases the tiny transmitter to the ground.

The Air Force definitely does not want the transmitters returned, Maj. Charles said. The delicate mechanisms have no value after they touch the ground. He said they are absolutely harmless except for battery acid that might be spilled from tiny wet cells used to operate the transmitter.

Although the hydrogen-filled balloons and transmitter cost the government $50 for each ascent -- they make four observations a day -- the cost is considered a very good Investment because of time and fuel saved by planes using upper air stratas, especially in the jet plane field.

The Long Beach station headed by Maj. Charles is the only one west of the Davis-Monthan Field in Arizona making regular readings with the balloon transmitters.

In addition to the transmitter on the balloon, trained technicians headed by S-Sgts. O.P. Nash and D.C. Mathison, track the gadget by radar while in flight and take readings from an instrument recording transmissions of the tiny radio high in the air.

Translated into intelligible material for pilots, the information gathered by the device's [sic] of inestimable value to the Air-Force.

But remember -- they aren't flying discs, and the government doesn't want them returned. In fact, it's possible that the bill for collect phone calls reporting findings of the transmitters might outweigh the initial cost of the instrument if the practice isn't stopped.

Eugene, Oregon Register-Guard - 28 Jun 48

Keep 'Em Flying

As the temperature soared toward its predicted 90 degrees Monday noon, George Farris stood in front of the postoffice [sic] and swore he saw flying saucers over Skinner's Butte. Bystanders saw them too, and at press time they were still wondering what it was zooming around the butte.

Mexia, Texas Daily News - 29 Jun 48

Report Flying Saucers Staging a Comeback

BONHAM, Tex., June 29 -- (UP) -- Flying saucers are staging a comeback. That's what two Dallas News routemen said today, anyhow.

Lloyd Barr and Johnnie Acree said they saw one of the flying monstrosities at 5:45 a.m. today near Cotton Center, about six miles southeast of here. They said it was headed southwest flying about 1,500 feet up, and was round and shiny. It was whirling, they said, and was visible to them about two minutes.

Bonham, Texas Daily Favorite - 29 Jun 48

Bonhamites Report Spotting Flying Disk Near Cotton Center Early Today

Flying disks have returned!

Two Bonham residents reported seeing one around 5:45 o'clock this morning in the Cotton Center community, southeast of Bonham.

Lloyd Barr and Johnnie Acree, who have a paper route, reported seeing the spinning silvery disk while passing through the Cotton Center area around 5:45 a.m.

The object was travelling in a southwesternly [sic] direction -- towards Whitewright and appeared to be slightly better than 1,500 feet high. It was plainly visible for about two minutes. They were unable to estimate the speed.

They said that it appeared to be round and about the size of a large washtub.

Skies were clear at that time.

Both said it was not an airplane or a balloon.

Popular Science - Jul 48

Letters heading
Flying Saucers?


After reading "Are Secret Balloons Flying Saucers?" in Popular Science of May, 1948, I have decided it was the work of a moron or a liar. ...

I have seen flying discs five times. I have taken and obtained two photographs of discs. ... Do balloons travel against the wind at 10,000 to 14,000 feet? Do balloons travel in formation like birds? Do balloons have holes in the center? ... I am surprised that a science magazine such as yours would publish such nonsense ...

Boise, Idaho


... I saw them, too, and they weren't balloons. Also, I wasn't seeing spots in front of my eyes. Some of the "flying saucers" might accidentally have turned out to be balloons, but not all of them. Officialdumb [sic] can sure think up some goofy reasons for things they don't understand. ...

The ones I saw were flying in perfect formation ... it was late at night. There was no searchlight that could be seen closer than at Chattanooga. All others were blocked off by the mountains. And yet they gave off an extremely bright glow which nearly lit up the landscape like day ...

Columbia, S.C.


... I think that your story about the balloons is one of the best explanations, but here is mine.

Last summer in Port Huron, Michigan, they had a celebration of their "Blue Water Festival." ... While still in town we passed a large searchlight. After leaving town we could still see the beam. ... When reaching camp we could no longer see the beam but saw the patch of light it made on low clouds. To us it seemed a very convincing "flying saucer" -- if we hadn't known better. 

Oceanside, Calif.


... I doubt if the reporter who wrote the article observed many of the research balloons in flight. I have. I was formerly with the United States Weather Bureau and watched a good many of them. ...

There is one outstanding characteristic about them that instantly becomes obvious to an observer who has one pointed out to him in flight. That is its apparent motionless. ... I have frequently seen them mistaken for stars or fixed bodies. ...

The one feature which was in common about most eyewitness descriptions of the "flying saucers" was speed. ... That rules out the weather balloons without question because they just don't look that way. ... I'm afraid your reporter will have to try again.

Smithfield, Utah

PS will accept the flying saucers as scientific fact when a captive saucer is produced. To date, captive "saucers" include a factory gear wheel that let loose and landed in a back yard, and a standard weather balloon.

Indianapolis, Indiana Star - 1 Jul 48

Sky 'Saucers'

Noblesville Daily Ledger: M.E. Clark, Noblesville jeweler who lives in the country north of the city, has a solution for the mystery of the so-called "flying saucers" which have been reported from time to time. He reports as follow: "I notice once in a while someone reports seeing flying saucers, not only in this state but also other states. It seems to be popular to have seen these supposed-to-be mysteries. It seems the American people like mysteries and like to be worried and afraid of something.

"Let me say I often sit on my front porch about 10 o'clock at night to cool a little before I retire and watch the supposed-to-be flying saucers in the South. They are produced by a strong searchlight beam from a revolving tower at Indianapolis. The light makes one revolution a minute and as the beam reaches about 25 miles it certainly is speeding to make a trip of about 50 miles in diameter in 60 seconds. When the beam strikes a low hanging cloud, it creates a bright, round glow which speeds very rapidly across the sky.

"I have watched these 'flying saucers' for many summers just for pleasure. It helps to sooth a tired mind before retiring."

Indianapolis, Indiana Star - 1 Jul 48

Main Street Indiana
By Mary E. Bostwick

... Well, guess who's been seeing flying saucers?

Mr. and Mrs. H.E. Morey of Noblesville, that's who, while driving between Cicero and Noblesville. "There they were, light-colored, saucer-shaped objects whirling across the sky, plain as day. I never believed all the stories about flying saucers, but a fellow has to believe his own eyes, doesn't he?" Morey is quoted in the Noblesville Ledger. ...

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Post-Gazette - 5 Jul 48


Flying Saucer Season Here Again
Four Uniontown People Report Seeing Soaring Dinner-Plates, Forewarning Editors to Brace Themselves for a Flock of Inquiries

By Pat O'Neill
Post-Gazette Staff Writer

The silly season is upon us again, when the air is filled with anything the mind of inquiring man can dream up to take the place of flying saucers -- the whimsical discs that filled the skies about this time last year.

For that matter the flying cylinders have already made an appearance. The police of Uniontown, Pa. spent considerable time on June 30 allaying the common excitement experienced by Mrs. Margaret Hollar, Charles Schuh, Mrs. Catherine MacDonald and her daughter, Catherine.

All reported a display of flying dinner-plates in the Pittsburgh road sector.

Traced to Mars or Moscow

It is the time of year when city editors brace themselves to take reports from citizens who see phenomena strictly out of the Apocalypse. Last year the flying saucers worked their feverish magic on a populace which traced their source to Mars or Moscow. Nor was the influence of the celestial discs confined only to the man in the street.

Men in high command detailed military equipment such as planes and personnel to the task of running the things to earth.

Japanese balloons, meteorological equipment, pie-plates and moonbeams rewarded the searchers but nary a man from Mars was gleaned from the skies.

Books Go Saucers One Better

Photographic evidence was produced to show the discs. A Coast Guard aviator produced a photo of what he believed to be a celestial saucer.

Close as he was to the gadget, he had earthbound competitors who saw the things from Seattle, Wash., to Salem, Mass. The switchboards of the nation's newspapers testified to the excitement of the people.

Yet it was not strange to the editors who listened to and recorded the information. A man named Charles Fort wrote at least three books filled with data on even more weird events. He collected all his material from newspapers.

His research showed that people are apparently eager to flout science and see frogs falling from the skies, red snow and tropical glens in Greenland.

Last summer's aviating pottery -- whether pure china or Spode deponent knoweth not -- was not as baleful a piece of mass suggestion as some of the stunts perpetrated in the early '30s.

Take the goldfish-eaters, for instance. The piscatorial pastime raised hell with the genus carp in all its golden declensions. It had also a dubious nutritional value.

Greenville, South Carolina News - 5 Jul 48

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Odessa, Texas American - 7 Jul 48

News From Our Files

One Year Ago Today

First reports of the "flying discs" in this area was made by M.E. (Jack) Spry this morning. Spry said he and Norris Nelson saw what might have been a meteorite or a flying disc about 10 a.m., June 27, approximately 10 miles southeast of Kermit.

Lansing, Michigan State Journal - 7 Jul 48

Lansing Yesterdays

One Year Ago --

The Lansing area seems to be enjoying the unique reputation of not having received visitations of the "flying discs" over the weekend, although a local physician reports spotting the mysterious objects while in Detroit.

Logansport, Indiana Pharos-Tribune - 7 Jul 48

Logansport In the Past

One Year Ago

Robert Miller, 14, of route 5, today claimed the distinction of being the only persons [sic] in Cass county who has seen one of the mysterious "flying discs" which have been reported sighted in various parts of the United States.

Odessa, Texas American - 8 Jul 48

News From Our Files

One Year Ago Today

A "flying disc" flashed overhead 10 miles from here Sunday, according to P.L. Bingham, Denver city, who said he saw the "shiny" circular shape at approximately 4:30 p.m. while en route here from Andrews.

McKeesport, Pennsylvania Daily News - 8 Jul 48

Flying Disc In Sky Here, Women Say

"Flying saucers" were reported in the district again today.

Two Grover Ave. women talking outside their homes this morning said they saw what looked like a "big, silver plate" zooming noiselessly overhead in the direction of Kennywood Park.

"Oh, look, that's not a plane," screamed Mrs. Nell Veway of 3404 Grover Ave. to her neighbor, Mrs. Elizabeth Goltz, 3604 Grover Ave. "It looks like one of those 'flying saucers'."

Mrs. Veway said the disc, about 12 to 15 inches in diameter, disappeared in a cloud bank, but reappeared on the far side and also was seen by Mrs. Goltz, who was standing on her front porch.

"We followed the disc until it disappeared out of sight," Mrs. Veway added.

Portsmouth, New Hampshire Herald - 9 Jul 48

Looking Back In The Herald

1 Year Ago -- July 9, 1947

Another in a series of reports on "flying saucers" came today from a Portsmouth flier.

Charleroi, Pennsylvania Mail - 9 Jul 48

Flying Saucers Again

Last summer the country was plagued with a series of stories relative to 'flying saucers' they having been reported seen here and there in various sections of the nation [sic, entire sentence]. Whatever they were, if they existed, has not as yet been definitely determined. Now the silly season is with us again, when the air is filled with anything the mind can conjure up to take the place of the flying saucers.

It is said the flying discs have already made their appearance this summer one report emanating from the Uniontown area to that effect [sic, entire sentence]. The report was investigated by police of that city but whether or not any flying saucers were seen still appears to be a mystery. One thing is sure they have not been reported seen in Charleroi, although there were some who claimed to have seen flying discs in the district.

Last year, reports an item, the flying discs or saucers worked their feverish magic on a populace which traced their source to Mars or Moscow; nor, said the story, was the influence of the celestial saucers confined only to the man in the street. Men in high command detailed military equipment -- such as planes and personnel -- to the task of running the things to earth.

Anyway no local evidence of any flying saucer has actually been uncovered although the stories persisted. The majority of the tales came from the northwest states and they caused much comment and even some alarm when they were told. But the American people seem eager to hear the unusual and maybe this summer something else will turn up that will cause as much excitement as did the stories of the 'flying saucers'.

Nashville, Tennessee Tennessean - 11 Jul 48

UN Will Lose Its Stellar Attraction When Stubborn Gromyko Sails for Home

By Francis W. Carpenter

LAKE SUCCESS -- (AP) -- The United Nations is losing its feature attraction and star performer, as far as most Americans are concerned, when Andrei A. Gromyko goes home to Russia this month.

His vacation, of indefinite duration, will be his first at home in years. The betting here is that after that rest and the UN assembly in Paris this fall, he'll be back to whip out a few more vetoes.

One way or another, the aloof, stubborn, grimly determined and hard working Russian has been the center of public interest ever since the security council first set up shop in New York.

His first big moment in the United Nations, perhaps the biggest one, came when he walked out on the security council.

He went on from there to cast 25 vetoes for Soviet Russia and to become the most publicized delegate at the United Nations. ...

But he sometimes showed a lighter side. He liked to match wisecracks in rare relaxed moments.

There was his comment on the flying saucers, which were current a year ago. The press asked what he thought about them.

He grinned, stuck his right hand in his coat between the first and second buttons, and said with a glint in his eye:

"I have not yet had an opportunity to study the skies for a flying saucer and I have not seen one. I should like to see one -- in technicolor. Some attribute it to the British for exporting too much of the Scotch whisky into the United States. Some say it is a Russian discus thrower training for the Olympic games who does not realize his own strength. I do not think these versions are correct." ...

Binghamton, New York Press - 15 Jul 48

Owego Sheriff Says He Saw It
Flying Disc Stories Spread in Area After Report of Brilliant Light in Sky

Binghamton Press Bureau

Owego -- A flying disc, a brilliant white light, or a flaming airplane were among the conjectures advanced for a strange brilliance reported in the skies over the area of Owego last night between 9 and 9:30 o'clock.

Sheriff Howard O. Searles, who was returning home from the vicinity of Union Center on the Day Hollow Road, said he saw a brilliant white light to the west seemingly behind Bodie Hill.

However, he said today, he thought nothing more about it, thinking it might have been a fire, until the strange brilliance was also reported east of Towanda, Sayre and Waverly which would be in the general direction of this village.

Further investigation unearthed no other reports. The area in question is fairly well settled, so that it would be almost impossible for an airplane to burn without someone knowing of the accident.

While no one reported the light as looking like a flying disc, stories of this strange phenomenon were rife in this ara [sic] again today.

Binghamton, New York Press - 15 Jul 48

Here We Go Again
Stars, Discs, Fire -- What Have You? Anyway, There Were 'Things' in Sky

Stars -- or flying discs, bright lights or skyrockets -- fell on the Southern Tier last night.

Whether they were bright drops from the Milky Way or holdovers from the Fourth of July, some flaming "things" brought eyes skyward from widely scattered spots.

From Deyo Hill, Donald Williamson of Binghamton R.D. 5 and his 18-year-old son Everett, saw something "larger than a star that shot up, burst into flame and shot down, lighting up the whole valley."

On the Day Hollow Road near Owego, Tioga County Sheriff Howard O. Searles said he saw a brilliant white light between 9 and 9:30 p.m.

A strange brilliance also was reported observed east of Towanda, Sayre and Waverly in the general direction of Owego.

Mr. Williamson's wife said her husband and son saw the light about 8:30 o'clock last night.

"They said," she reported, "it seemed to come right down in front of their eyes."

She said her husband was looking toward Nimmonsburg when he saw "a red light like a fire."

"It flew right up like a sky rocket, they said," Mrs. Williamson claimed. "But they thought it was too high up to be one."

Nimmonsburg is more than 20 miles west of Bodie Hill, near Owego, where Sheriff Searles said he saw a white light.

However, he said today, he thought nothing more about it, believing it might have been a fire, until he heard other reports. They placed the light as being east of Towanda, Sayre and Waverly.

The area around Owego is fairly well settled. It is considered almost impossible for an airplane to burn without someone knowing of the accident.

Wichita Falls, Texas Title - 18 Jul 48

Flying Discs Seen In Seymour Area

Special To The Times

SEYMOUR, Texas, July 17 -- Flying discs are in the air again. At least that's what Fred Willings, a farmer in the Seymour area says.

He and a group of members of the Odd Fellows and Rebekah lodges discovered a shiny object about the size and color of a washtub whizzing through the air at terrific speed, he said. It was going toward the southeast and disappeared within one minute. It was estimated to be at an altitude of about 2,000 feet.

The group which reported seeing the disc included several automobile loads of lodge members going to Breckenridge to attend a special initiation meeting Friday. The specimen appeared about 5:45 p.m. and was reflected very brightly in the sun, Willings said.

Riding in the car with Willings were G.L. Whitten, Mrs. Floyd Davis, Mrs. Ferrell Wright, Mrs. R.B. Jones, Miss Kay Morris and Mrs. D.U. Cowart.

Willings said he had heard a lot about flying discs but had never seen one before.

"It made a believer of me," he said.

Salem, Oregon Statesman - 18 Jul 48

Flying Discs Reported

The recent revival of flying disc stories came to Salem Saturday when two objects -- "too high to be airplanes and looking like ash trays" -- were reported traveling north about 9:50 a.m. by Gwenlyn [sic] Klinge of 730 Market st.

Bakersfield, California Californian - 22 Jul 48

Drifting Balloon Starts Saucer Talk

LOS ANGELES -- (UP) -- A weather balloon drifted over the Los Angeles area last night and touched oft a new batch of "flying saucer" rumors.

More than 1500 calls swamped police and fire department switchboards reporting the mysterious silver object which appeared about sunset. Various citizens reported it as soaring, dipping, standing still, shooting across the sky and moving north, east, south and west.

Astronomers at Mt. Wilson observatory took a look through a telescope and said it was nothing more than a weather balloon drifting west from the vicinity of Big Bear lake.

San Bernardino, California Sun - 23 Jul 48

'Flying Disc' Calls Pour In
But Mystery Object Proves Strayed Weather Balloon

A mysterious silver disc-like object which floated westerly from the Big Bear area to Los Angeles Tuesday night was identified by astronomers at the Mt. Wilson observatory as a stray weather balloon.

No one knew where the balloon came from, however, as hundreds of calls poured into police stations in inland Southern California with various descriptions of a "flying disc."

The balloon was first observed near Big Bear. Deputy Sheriff Bud Heiserman viewed the balloon through a powerful telescope and reported it was moving westerly at an altitude of approximately 12,000 feet.

He reported the incident to U.S. forest service rangers and they said they too had been watching the balloon. Three hours later, the balloon was seen over Los Angeles.

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