in the news 1952
PART FIVE OF TWENTY-SIX PARTS
Above: Covers for the April 7, 1952 edition of Life Magazine and the June 17, 1952 edition of Look Magazine. Life Magazine had ignited a nationwide controversy with its story "Have We Visitors From Space?", spotlighting 10 prominent incidents and revealing that the Air Force -- despite previous public assertions -- was very much actively pursuing investigations of the phenomenon. Two months later Look Magazine countered with the debunking article "The Truth About Flying Saucers" by Harvard astronomer Dr. Donald Menzel, asserting that all saucers not otherwise explained by balloons or misidentification were in fact atmospheric mirages. Look Magazine had long been the go-to for anti-saucer stories, starting with a two-part hit piece coordinated by Project Grudge's Col. Watson, authored by Sydney Shalett, and called "What You Can Believe About Flying Saucers" in 1949 and continuing in 1951 with "A Nuclear Physicist Exposes Flying Saucers", in which Dr. Urner Liddell of the Office of Naval Research asserted that all 'reliable' flying disc reports were in reality misidentified Skyhook balloons.
NINETEEN FIFTY-TWO might be remembered for many things, large and small. The election of Dwight Eisenhower as President of the United States. Fifty thousand American families afflicted by polio. The British A-bomb. The first issue of Mad magazine. The theory of the "Big Bang".
But for those of a certain bent, 1952 will also be remembered for the second great 'flying saucer flap' which climaxed with the reports of radar and visual sightings over the nation's capital in late July.
Part of the story of that event-filled year is now available in declassified government files. But for the public back then -- at a time when only one in three families in America had a television set -- the story was mostly found in the newspapers and magazines.
This then is a look back at those stories, as they first appeared in print...
JUNE 2 THROUGH JUNE 17, 1952:
Redlands, California Daily Facts - 2 Jun 52
Life Is Dull On Mars
Professor Gerard P. Kuiper, a noted astronomer of Yerkes Observatory in Wisconsin, has announced that Mars is the only planet in the whole solar system other than our own that is suitable for the development of living things.
Venus lacks oxygen and water, and the atmospheres of Jupiter and Saturn are loaded with poisonous gases. Even Mars, the professor believes, is capable of sustaining only a low form of lichen-like plant life.
Apparently the men from Mars and other planets exist only in the funny papers. All of which makes more mystifying than ever the question of where the flying saucers come from.
Big Spring, Texas Daily Herald - 2 Jun 52
Scientist Calls 'Lubbock Lights' Just A Mirage
NEW YORK. -- The famous Lubbock Lights, sighted and photographed over Lubbock, Texas in 1951 and called "flying saucers" by many persons, were today branded mirages by an outstanding Harvard scientist and astrophysicist. He said they were the reflection of street lights from some city.
Dr. Donald H. Menzel, associate director of solar research at Harvard and chairman of the Wave Propagation Committee of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the war, announced his radically new theory about flying saucers in the issue of Look Magazine out Tuesday, June 3.
He said they were mirages caused by an atmospheric condition known as "temperature inversion." It is a scientific fact that such regions of the atmosphere can cause a mirage.
Light reaching such an area -- instead of continuing up -- will curve downward. If the air is turbulent, the light appears to be moving at incredible speed, Dr. Menzel explains.
During the day, mirages are created when light from the sky is reflected to the earth, Dr. Menzel points out. Thus, when driving a car, a distant asphalt road appears to be covered with water. This water is reflected from the sky. At night the reverse is true, with lights from the earth reflected into the sky.
"Hence, if we have distant light -- such as those of a city -- these lights will appear to float In the sky," Dr. Menzel writes. "Moreover, if the intervening air is turbulent to any degree, the light will appear to move. If the source is a line of distant street lamps, the images appear to fly in formation." This, he says, is how the famous Lubbock Light phenomenon of Texas came about.
Dr. Menzel has been able to produce laboratory results which duplicate the most famous flying saucers reported. He has simulated the necessary atmospheric conditions and made saucers flying in formation. Photographs of his saucers, together with details of his experiment, appear in Look.
Dr. Menzel offers his recipe in Look for making your own flying saucers right in the kitchen sink:
"Fill the kitchen sink to the brim and set up a row of candles close to the edge along one side. Now face the lights from the opposite side of the sink, keeping your eye close to the water surface and see the bright reflections. Now have someone gently stir the water and produce waves. The lights will float and travel -- and even show the disc-like form characteristic of a reflection from the trough of a wave."
"I believe," he says in Look, "that these experiments will eventually cause the saucer scare to vanish -- most appropriately into thin air, the region that gave birth to it."
Lubbock, Texas Evening Journal - 3 Jun 52
Texas flying saucer myth exploded!
What's the real explanation for those mysterious lights over Lubbock last summer? How can you, yourself, make them at home? One of America's leading astronomers makes the Lubbock saucer scare vanish into thin air in "THE TRUTH ABOUT FLYING SAUCERS" in the new issue of LOOK.
NEW ISSUE NOW ON SALE
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Lubbock, Texas Morning Avalanche - 3 Jun 52
Scientist At Texas Tech Denies 'Lubbock Lights' Were Caused By Reflection Of City Street Lamps
A TEXAS TECH scientist who studied the "Lubbock Lights" last fall disclaimed a Look Magazine statement Monday night that the phenomenon was caused by a reflection of street lights.
Dr. E.F. George, director of the Tech seismological observatory, said that "I don't believe what I saw was a reflection from street lights."
The statement was made in answer to an article in the current issue of Look Magazine, written by Dr. Donald H. Menzel, associate director of solar research at Harvard. Dr. Menzel said the so called "flying saucers" were the reflection of street lights -- mirages caused by an atmospheric condition known as "temperature inversion."
Dr. George was one of a group of Tech scientists who made as thorough a study as possible of the formation-flying lights spotted by scores of people in and near Lubbock early last fall. Although the group never concluded what caused the phenomenon, the U.S. Air Force sent special investigators into the city to glean all information possible from those who reported seeing the "lights."
In his article in Look, Dr. Menzel said that distant city lights "will appear to float in the sky. Moreover, if the intervening air contains waves or is turbulent to any degree, the lights will appear to move, riding in on the crest of a wave, like ripples of moonlight on the ocean. If the source is a line of distant street lamps the images appear to fly in formation -- the Lubbock Light phenomenon."
Without having read the article, Dr. George said he could not go along with the theory that the fast traveling phenomenon he saw could have been caused by street lights.
However, W.L. Ducker, head of the Tech petroleum engineering department and another of the scientific observers here, was more cautious.
Ducker pointed out that the group never had attempted to say "what" they saw, only that they saw "something." He added, nonetheless, that "to determine what something is you have to get your hands on that something itself."
He pointed out that a reproduction of a phenomenon would not necessarily mean that the original phenomenon was "trickery."
In his copyrighted article in Look, Dr. Menzel said, he had reproduced in his laboratory lights that looked and acted like the lights seen over Lubbock and across the nation. A picture of the "Lubbock Lights", photographed by Carl Hart Jr., and another taken in the laboratory were printed along with the article. The lights were in similar formations, although those taken in the laboratory were more diffused than were those taken by Hart.
Definitely Not Ducks
Ducker and the other Tech scientists have never convinced themselves, however, that the lights photographed by Hart were the same phenomenon as witnessed by them on several occasions last fall.
They have contended that the light seen by them was traveling at too fast a rate of speed to be photographed.
The scientists also have conceded that many persons reporting flying objects over the city last fall may have seen ducks (as many South Plainsmen explained what they saw), but they contend that "what we saw definitely was not ducks."
The Look article said that the Lubbock Lights and other phenomenon lumped together into the "flying saucer" category are caused by light hitting warm air and being refracted into a cold surface.
Dr. Menzel explained that light reaching such an area -- instead of continuing upward -- will curve downward. If the air is turbulent, he said, the light appears to be moving at incredible speed.
During the day, mirages are created when light from the sky is reflected to the earth, Dr. Menzel points out. Thus, when driving a car, a distant asphalt road appears to be covered with water. This water is reflected from the sky. At night the reverse is true with lights from the earth reflected into the sky.
Offers Own Formula
Dr. Menzel has been able to produce laboratory results which duplicate the most famous flying saucers reported, the magazine said. He has simulated the necessary atmospheric conditions and made saucers flying in formation. Photographs of the saucers together with details of his experiment appear in the magazine.
Dr. Menzel offers his recipe for making your own flying saucers right in the kitchen sink:
"Fill the kitchen sink to the brim and set up a row of candles close to the edge along one side. Now face the lights from the opposite side of the sink, keeping your eye close to the bright reflections. Now have someone gently stir the water and produce waves. The lights will float and travel -- and even show the disclike form characteristic, of a reflection from the trough of a wave."
"I believe," he says, "that these experiments will eventually cause the saucer scare to vanish -- most appropriately into thin air, the region that gave birth to it."
Look concludes its article with the note that "the forces entrusted with the defense of the U.S. from the skies still must look for 'flying saucers'."
Thus, laboratory experiments or not, the U.S. government still wants to get its hands on "the something itself" which has caused the flying saucer and Lubbock Lights reports.
Long Beach, California Independent - 3 Jun 52
by Terry Vernon
. . . ROY MAYPOLE told us one day that he was working on a show about the famous "flying saucers" and now we'll get it, Thursday at 9 p.m. on KTTV (11). ROY maintains that the "flying saucers" do exist and he'll have a group of top-flight scientists on hand to prove it.
Newport, Rhode Island Daily News - 4 Jun 52
Science Fiction Films Held No Fad
by Bob Thomas
Hollywood, June 25 -- They're blowing up a large part of Los Angeles over at Paramount.
The city hall came down in rubble recently. Now they're leveling various other landmarks. All this takes place on a movie set, of course. But when it appears on the screen, it will look like a Martian invasion for sure.
This is the latest chapter in the life of a literary work that has a long and chilling history. It is "War of the Worlds," which shivered Victorian readers when it was first published in 1898. The book depicted the invasion of London by octopus-like creatures from Mars.
Orson Welles, in the days when he was really a wonder boy, put the story on radio, shifting the locale to New York. He did it documentary style, as though it were actually happening. Some citizens of New Jersey, where the invasion was supposed to have started, were reported scared out of their socks.
Now it's a film version. The producer is George Pal, who has created such fantasia as "Destination Moon" and "When Worlds Collide." He has the Martians landing in the California desert and marching on Los Angeles.
"I wanted them to land in the desert, he explained, "because the reports of flying saucers and other phenomenon have so often happened over the desert."
Pal's Martians arrive in a saucer-like flying ship. They have several crab-like legs, the producer reasoning that the Martians evolved from crabs instead of monkeys. The invaders wreak their havoc by means of death and destruction rays causing dread vibrations.
All this calls for some fantastic film-making. Gordon Jennings, who wrecked the temple in "Samson and Delilah" among other things, says he has more special effects in "War of the Worlds" than in any other film during his 26 years in the studio.
Pal is convinced that science fiction films are not a passing fancy. "It's no fad," he remarked. "I think good science fiction films will continue as a regular kind of picture, just like Westerns and musicals. But they have to be good. The time has passed when producers can grind out cheap science fiction films and expect them to sell."
Dunkirk, New York Evening Observer - 4 Jun 52
Here We Go Again; The Gremlins Are On the Prowl
PLATTSBURG -- Northern New York residents have been seeing "saucer shaped" objects whizzing through the skies during the past few days.
An Ausable valley farm woman reported yesterday that she and four neighbors watched such an object flying through the skies the night before last.
Mrs. Charles Preston, who lives on a farm about 17 miles from here, reported that the "object" gave off a "brilliant silver light, blinding as the sun." She said it made no noise and seemed to travel in the direction of Burlington, Vt.
The object left a long vaporlike trail and acted as though it was "controlled because it seemed to gain altitude on approaching mountains to the east."
A Plattsburg woman reported seeing a similar object last Sunday.
Walla Walla, Washington Union-Bulletin - 4 Jun 52
Flying Saucer Here? Yep!
Residents Urged To Watch 'Em
The flying saucer season is here again. Bill Vollendorff, 133 Boyer Drive, officially opened the season early this week. Sunday he saw a saucer over Walla Walla, he reported Tuesday night.
Vollendorff is adjutant of the 9460th Volunteer Air Reserve squadron of Walla Walla. He was a flying instructor in the last war with the rank of major.
He spotted the object over Walla Walla about 1:30 p.m. and observed it from his home, for an estimated seven seconds. He estimated the object's altitude as from 10,000 to 15,000 feet. It appeared to be small in size, of oval shape and relatively thin. It was traveling northeast.
Vollendorff observed what appeared to be a rocking motion of the object, then it changed course at approximately 45 degrees and disappeared from view at a high rate of speed.
The best time of the year for observing the skies is from early June until September, according to Cliff Lincoln, flight commander of the Air Force Reserve here. He urged people to watch for objects in the sky during clear weather and to report immediately the sighting of any strange object.
The U.S. Air Force is accumulating data on all sightings of strange objects. A report of such an object should be turned in to Lincoln, to the CAA communication station at the City-County Airport, phone 516, or to the headquarters of the 9406th VAR squadron, 12 N. Second, phone 165.
This information will then be channeled to the Air Force. If the report shows promise, the Air Force will probably get in touch with the observer and review the information with him.
Lincoln advised people not to think they were "seeing things" in such a case, but to observe the object and its behavior carefully, then report it immediately. He cautioned against thinking about the occurrence too much before reporting it. The most accurate report can be given immediately after the sighting, he said.
Algiers, Algeria Echo d'Alger 4 Jun 52
Unusual Object Over Tunisia
On 3 June, at about 2000 hours, many inhabitants of Sousse saw a flying object traveling at dizzy speed from west to east and emitting a pale green light.
Reading, Pennsylvania Eagle 5 Jun 52
More 'Flying Saucers'
Catania, Sicily, June 5 -- Another rash of "flying saucers" has broken out in Sicily and Italy. Many persons reported seeing a silvery object cross Catania at a high altitude today. Two other saucers were reported over Ancona, on Italy's Adriatic coast, late yesterday.
Rocky Mount, North Carolina Evening Telegram - 5 Jun 52
No Authentic Saucers?
Take it from Dr. C.C. Wylie, professor of Astronomy at the University of Iowa, not one single "flying saucer" has been reported as the result of astronomical observations. While the maze of reports heard not so long ago concerning the presence of so-called "flying saucers" has somewhat abated, we do not doubt but that many persons who are usually considered to be well informed feel that there is really "something to it."
Dr. Wylie admits that looking over all the stories in magazines and newspapers reporting flying saucers, the lack of astronomical data is impressive. He points out that in spite of the fact astronomical telescopes and cameras are working in all parts of the country every clear night, that thousands of meteors have been observed by radar, and that astronomers are regularly interviewing persons who have seen spectacular meteors, not one "saucer" has been reported in astronomical work.
Quoting the astronomer:
The fact that each saucer has been reported from only one point suggests that most have been spots of reflected light. Sunlight reflected from a bright surface produces, at the critical angle, a bright, silvery, round or oval spot, with no sign of the airplane, or bird, responsible. The best saucers reported to us have proved on investigation to be due to airplanes. (I have seen one beautiful set of such saucers.)
The fact that each saucer has been observed from only one point means that the heights and speeds are mere guesses. Without at least one pointing from a different location, the height is unknown. It was pointed out years ago that the question of the reality of the saucers could be quickly answered by having each story investigated promptly, as meteor reports are now being investigated in parts of the country. Fact could be separated from fiction and fancy in this way, as it cannot be for these old reports. The sensational features of most stories would be quickly eliminated, and should a real object be found, its path, height, and speed could be easily calculated.
The fact that none of the magazine articles suggests that a real investigation of the stories be made as they are reported is evidence that the writers have little confidence in the reality of the interplanetary saucers. One suspects they are afraid that such an investigation, by producing commonplace explanations for the stories, would spoil material for good articles in the future.
Long Beach, California Press Telegram - 5 Jun 52
Looking and Listening
Are There Flying Saucers? Engineers Will Say "Yes"
By KING CHARLES
Are there such things as flying saucers?
A distinguished group of engineers engaged in top secret guided missile work will say that "flying saucers do exist" when they appear with Roy Maypole on KTTV at 9.
The list reads like "Who's Who" in the engineering world. All are members of the Civilian Saucer Investigations and came into prominence recently when their findings were featured by Life Magazine.
The engineers are: Ed J. Sullivan, founder of CSI; Norton H. Nelson, electrical engineer and physicist; John C. Barnes, aviation structures engineer; Johannes S. Newton, mechanical engineer; Dr. Walther Riedel, leading propulsion engineer in the guided missile industry and former director of development and design of the V-l and V-2 at Peenemunde; Werner Eichler, professional translator in 30 languages, an engineer and engineering writer; Felix Knoll, consulting engineer; and Gerald Heard, BBC science analyst and author of "Is Another World Watching?"
On tonight's program, the CSI plans to show actual photographs of flying saucers.
The organization is eager to obtain information of all sightings of strange aircraft by the public. Any such information should be mailed to Civilian Saucer Investigations at P.O. Box 1971, Los Angeles. They have so far received and correlated news of sightings from six continents.
Time Magazine - 9 Jun 52
An Astronomer's Explanation
ARE flying saucers real? "Certainly," says Dr. Donald H. Menzel, Harvard professor of astrophysics. "They are as real as rainbows. No one should be ashamed of seeing them and reporting them. I have seen them myself."
On the other hand, says Menzel, seeing flying saucers is not the same thing as believing that they are space ships manned by intelligent beings from another planet. This science-fiction approach is like "explaining" lightning by calling it a weapon of Zeus: it merely supplants one mystery by another mystery. Calling the saucers space ships explains them, after a fashion, but it summons up the greater mystery of a godlike super-race living on Mars or Venus. "How simple is this sort of science," says Menzel, "and how wrong."
Plain Reasoning. Some saucer reports are hoaxes; some are products of imagination. Others have come from glimpses of such ordinary objects as weather balloons, aircraft and even sheets of newspaper carried aloft by the wind. But Menzel became convinced that, in spite of such false alarms, competent and honest observers had been seeing unusual sights that needed explaining. He determined to find out by plain scientific reasoning what it was they saw.
The saucers vary widely. Some are hazy globes; some are bright lights. Some are cigar-shaped, wingless "airplanes"; others are spinning disks. Some of the saucers fly singly; others in formation. They fly both by day and by night; they zigzag abruptly. It is obvious, concluded Menzel, that no single type of object, such as a novel aircraft, can be behind all the stories.
Most striking things about the saucers are 1) their silence, 2) their habit of darting in violent zigzags and 3) their apparent high speed. Dr. Menzel does not take the reported speed at its face value. "Unless you know the size of an unfamiliar object," he says, "you cannot judge its distance, and unless you know its distance, you cannot judge its speed."
The speed of the saucers (apparent or real) is the principal prop of the spaceship theory. No man-made structural material, say the spaceship enthusiasts, could move through air at several thousand m.p.h. without being melted by the heat of friction. No style of aircraft known to man could move so fast in complete silence. No human crew could make the sudden stops and turns without being killed by "G-forces." Therefore, argue the space-shippers, the saucers must come from another planet where aeronautical technology is more advanced than on earth.
"How much simpler," reasoned Menzel, "to suppose that the saucers are not material at all. Then they need not obey the rules and regulations that govern material objects."
But what nonmaterial, saucerlike object can move quickly, silently, and in violent zigzags? One such thing is a spot of light. It is easy to swing the beam of a searchlight (across high clouds, for instance) and make its bright spot seem to travel at many thousand m.p.h. The spot of light moves silently and it can change direction as abruptly as any saucer.
Saucers reported by competent observers could not be explained by searchlight spots, but the beam-of-light analogy gave Menzel something to work with. He looked around for other tricks of nonmaterial light which might convince an observer that he had seen a material object zipping through the air at unearthly speed.
Radar Ghosts. He did not have far to look. During World War II, Menzel had left astronomy to become a radar expert. One job (as chairman of the Wave Propagation Committee of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) was to study the effect of atmospheric irregularities on radar waves. Sometimes a layer of warm air makes the waves wander oddly, producing deceptive ghosts on the radarscope. Warships have shelled empty ocean, thinking an enemy was there. Since light waves and radar waves behave in much the same way, Menzel reasoned that the same irregularities might produce optical ghosts resembling flying saucers.
Some optical ghosts are common: the ordinary mirages which nearly everyone has seen. Commonest of all is "water-in-the-road," which is caused by a thin layer of warm air above sun-heated pavement. The two layers (cold and dense above, hot and less dense below) "refract"* upward the light that reaches them from the distant sky. A motorist sees shining water (really sky) lying in the road. In hot deserts this sort of mirage is extremely deceptive.
Moon Disks. Menzel is convinced that rarer types of mirages explain most flying saucers. Part of his conviction comes from something he saw while driving across New Mexico from Holloman Air Force Base to Alamogordo. It was a clear, cool night and a full moon had risen. Menzel noticed near the moon two bright objects which he took at first for the stars Castor and Pollux. His astronomer's knowledge told him that Castor and Pollux would not be visible at that season, so he lowered the car window to get a better look. The stars turned into fuzzy disks with about one-quarter of the moon's diameter, and they kept up with the moon in its apparent motion past objects in the foreground. After five miles, Menzel told the driver to stop the car. At once the disks vanished.
Menzel wrote a report on this "sighting" and sent it to the Air Force. He never thought his disks were flying saucers; they were close to the moon and obviously associated with it. But they puzzled him for a long time. Now he believes they were caused by the motion of the car distorting a layer of warm air just above its roof and forming two displaced images of the rising moon. A more ignorant man might well have reported them as flying objects. At any rate, they led Menzel to his present theory about the saucers.
Normally, he explains, the atmosphere grows cooler as altitude increases, but under some conditions it may contain layers of warm air with cold air below them. These are called "inversions." They occur in all climates but are commonest in deserts, where both the ground and the air get very hot in daytime. As soon as the sun sets, the ground cools off, radiating its warmth into the sky. The air for a few feet up grows cool by contact with the cool earth, but the air a little higher stays warm.
This common condition, Menzel believes, is responsible for many of the saucer sightings (see diagram). The warm air overhead turns downward the light from bright objects, such as street lights or auto headlamps. If the "interface" is too turbulent, it can form no visible image, but if it is just steady enough, it will create bright images that seem to sweep rapidly across the dark sky. This is the explanation, says Menzel, for the famous "Lubbock Lights,"** which have been taken for interplanetary space ships flying in formation. They may be the images of a string of lights at a distance, or they may be reduplicated images of a single very bright light.
[Note: Above is one version of Dr. Menzel's diagram. It is unknown if it matches the diagrams mentioned in the article. Click on image for larger version.]
From an Airplane, Dimly. Other inversions produce other kinds of saucers. Sometimes a warm layer hangs several thousand feet up (see diagram). Often the layer contains dust, which increases its power to divert light. If an airplane is flying just above this layer, the pilot may see the dim displaced image of the sun, the moon or a high, brightly lighted cloud. The image will appear below him; it may be distorted, magnified, or in rapid motion. If the inversion has waves in its surface (common near mountain ridges), the pilot may see a line of bright objects in rapid motion. Menzel believes that this is what Pilot Kenneth Arnold saw in 1947 when he reported the first flying saucers over a high ridge near Mt. Rainier.
If the plane is flying just below the inversion, the pilot may see distorted images from light sources below it. Such images can also be seen from the ground when the inversion is low enough. They may look like single moving objects or they may be lines of bright points shooting across the sky.
A special kind of flying saucer, says Menzel, has been seen four times, just after the launching of a big "sky hook" balloon. They appear as roundish objects, apparently at a great height. He believes that they are caused by the balloon itself when it rises through a thin layer of warm air at a thousand feet or so (see diagram). As it rises, it punches a hole in the layer. Cold air flows in, forming a blob of denser air that acts as an imperfect lens. Observers on the ground see a small moving image of the balloon above. The same effect can be produced, says Menzel, by holding a strong spectacle lens at arm's length toward a light.
Foo-Fighters. Another saucerlike object is the "foo-fighter": a bright spot of light which seemed to chase night-flying airplanes during World War II. Menzel believes that foo-fighters are really light (from the moon, from a plane's exhaust or from some other source) that is turned into the pilot's eye by strong eddies of air near a damaged wing. The moon disks that he saw himself were probably a sort of foo-fighter.
The only flying saucers which Menzel's theory does not explain are the green fireballs that have been reported with extraordinary frequency in the Southwest. But Menzel does not take them very seriously. In clear-aired New Mexico and Arizona, he says, meteors are seen oftener than in cloudier places. According to Menzel's colleague, meteor expert Fred Whipple, they often look green because of vaporized magnesium from their stony material.
After concluding that flying saucers are nothing but rare mirages, Menzel satisfied himself by mathematical analysis that air irregularities can cause them. But this theoretical treatment, he felt, was not enough. So he set about generating small-scale flying saucers in his basement laboratory.
Basement Saucers. He could not, of course, put several miles of atmosphere into a Cambridge basement, so he did the next best thing: he poured three inches of benzene into a straight-sided glass container. Over this he poured acetone, which is lighter. The two water-white liquids mixed only slightly, simulating an atmospheric inversion with the lighter warm air on top.
Then Menzel pointed a slender round beam of light from a projector at the underside of the invisible interface between the two liquids. Instead of passing through, the beam curved downward. When he looked directly into the downward slanting beam, he did not see a round spot of light. He saw an elliptical object, i.e., a perfect "flying saucer."
This laboratory saucer could "fly" too. When Menzel tilted the container, the image moved with the often-reported darting motion. When the liquid was stirred gently, the saucer changed shape, sometimes breaking into many fragments.
Prism Exhausts. Menzel does not claim to explain the exact air conditions that produce each flying saucer. The original light may come from almost any bright source, and it may follow all sorts of complicated paths, with different results each time. Sometimes the reported saucers have "glowing exhausts." Menzel believes that these "exhausts" are related to the colors seen through a prism. The conspicuous red, always seen at one end of the image, looks like a jet of red flame.
Since flying saucers are rare, they require unusual conditions to produce them. Menzel hopes that his rational explanation will encourage good observers to be on the alert for them.
While thinking scientifically about the flying saucers, Dr. Menzel has not neglected the colorful fancies of the spaceship cult. One of its articles of faith is that the space ships were first seen in the earth's atmosphere in 1947, not too long after the first atomic bomb was exploded in New Mexico. Their extraterrestrial designers -- so the theory goes -- wanted to see what ambitious man was up to. Ever since that time, the space ships have patrolled the U.S. Southwest, checking on atom bombs, rockets and other man-made threats to interplanetary peace.
Gay Nineties Saucers. "Who says that flying saucers were never seen before 1947?" asks Menzel. Recently he and his wife and young daughter visited the Library of Congress and found in the newspaper files a flying saucer scare more than 50 years ago. It started in California, where many flying saucers have been seen recently. "California had inversions then," says Menzel, "just as it has them today."
The first report came from Oakland. On the night of Nov. 22, 1896, people on an Alameda streetcar saw a huge "bird-shaped" object with a brilliant light in its nose. "When first seen," said the Oakland Tribune, "the object seemed to be floating over San Leandro. It shot across the sky in the northwest, then turned quickly and disappeared in the direction of Hayward."
This was well before practical powered aircraft, but the object seen at Oakland was quickly named "the airship." It was soon seen in many other parts of California, where people lined up in the streets, hoping to catch a glimpse of it. Often it behaved exactly like a modern flying saucer, accelerating quickly and changing its direction suddenly.
During 1897, the "airship" was seen in many other parts of the U.S., including Salt Lake City, Denver and the Midwest. On April 10, reported the New York Herald, thousands of people in Chicago saw lights like an airship in the northwest. Some saw two cigar-shaped objects with green and red lights.
Unknown Lights. Even before this turn-of-the-century flurry, says Menzel, flying saucers were reported. In 1893, the British warship Caroline saw mysterious lights just south of Korea. They "flew" in a long line, sometimes changing their formation. Through a glass they appeared "to emit a thin smoke." On reaching Kobe, the officers of the Caroline learned that these "Unknown Lights of Japan" had been observed by fishermen and were even described in Japanese schoolbooks.
A search of literature, Dr. Menzel suggests, would turn up many flying saucers. There may even be some in the Bible: the "wheels" seen in the air by the Prophet Ezekiel.*** Saucers have been seen more often of late, he thinks, because the U.S. Southwest, where atmospheric conditions are most favorable, has only recently been occupied by a large, alert population. The men who man its air bases, rocket ranges and laboratories are just the sort of observers that would notice flying saucers.
One aspect of his saucer research saddens Dr. Menzel. People like sensations, he says. The marvelous ships from space, manned by wise little people from Venus or Mars, brought a kind of frightening diversion into a jittery world. Dr. Menzel is aware that a debunker is not always a popular man. "I," he says sadly, "am the man who shot Santa Claus."
- - -
* Light moves slower in a denser medium. So when a "wavefront" of light passes at an angle from dense cold air into less dense warm air, the part that reaches the warm air first races ahead of the remainder. This "refraction" has the effect of bending the wave-front toward the cold air.
** Reported frequently over Lubbock, Texas. They look like "V"-shaped formations of bright spots in rapid motion.
*** Ezekiel 1: 15-21.
Life Magazine - 9 Jun 52
[NOTE: The original of this article as published can be read in its original professional layout and typesetting glory at the Life Magazine archive at Google Books here.]
PICTURE OF "SAUCERS" was submitted to Life by reader of April 7 article. But geophysicist has established it as a special type of cloud formation.
They range from plausible theories to nonsense
by Robert E. Ginna, Jr.
The April 7, 1952 issue of Life, in which Bradford Darrach and I examined "the case for flying saucers," provoked a tremendous barrage of letters. Some have been nonsensical, some philosophical, some have contained provocative and plausible theories. Not only has the story prompted an unprecedented response from the readers, but more and more letters are still coming in.
Many readers are apparently resigned to visitations from space already and expect a landing momentarily. "We should start construction of a suitable landing field for them," declared one reader. Others believe flying saucers to be far more than a study for scientists. "God is trying to tell the world something," says one reader. Another adds darkly, "He has sent the final sign..."
From the chief of the U.S. Air Force's saucer-investigating project the article brought a note of appreciation for helping their investigations. "A considerable number of observers have written to us with valuable information," he wrote, "because they were encouraged by the Life article." And the further reports that have since come in will continue to help the project. One in particular concerns the celebrated "Lubbock Lights," which Life reported as having been seen racing frequently over Lubbock, Texas. The professors who saw them assumed the altitude was 50,000 feet, noted their rate of change was 30° of arc per second, and accordingly estimated the lights' speed at 18,000 mph. Now Dr. R.S. Underwood, of the Department of Mathematics at Texas Technological College, has written Life that he was able to triangulate them on a September night last year and concluded that their altitude was about 2,100 feet. This means that the lights' speed was about 750 mph -- a piece of information that may bring the air Force one more solid piece of evidence.
Another contribution was in the form of a series of photographs which Robert Retzinger took near Palm Springs, Calif. last March. Dr. Ronald Ives, distinguished geophysicist of Cornell Aeronautical Laboratory, studied the pictures and concluded that they showed the generation of a Cumulus lenticularis, or lens-shaped cloud. This type of cloud, common in the area, is formed when compressed and heated air pushes up moist air so that it condenses into lens-shaped clouds. The clouds are often sheared into sections by higher winds, as can be seen in the picture at the top of the page. It is easy to see how a cloud like this, reflecting the lights below, might be taken for a flying saucer.
There was, of course, a minority of readers who dissented from the conclusions in the article. Some still argued that the saucers were super-secret U.S. weapons; Life's article had dismissed this argument on the ground that the government would hardly allow one branch of the service to spend vast sums of money on a saucer investigation which would have the primary effect of fooling another government branch even more completely than the enemy. Others maintained that the evidence was not precise enough, although the article had pointed out that nearly all the people who made the measurements Life reported were experienced observers. In any case, out of the more than 800 reports in the Air Force files, too many are too convincing to be brushed off.
It is only natural that many theories about the nature and modus operandi of the flying saucers have been offered since the article appeared. The greatest temptation, of course, is to explain them by attributing the evidence to natural phenomena. And one of the most interesting of the natural phenomena theories is that of Frank Bryan, a geologist of Groesbeck, Texas. He points out that great strata of air of different temperatures -- i.e., inversion layers -- occur over the flat, arid plains of West Texas and southeast new Mexico known as the Llano Estacado. It is Mr. Bryan's theory that mirages are caused when light is reflected from an inversion layer as from a great mirror. Actually most authorities agree that mirages are caused by refraction or bending of the light through the layer and over the horizon as if by a series of prisms. At any rate, Mr. Bryan believes that such a layer may be like rolling waves, with concave undersurfaces, which act as reflectors, catching and magnifying the images of certain light sources on the ground or in the sky.
The theory is not a new one; it was mentioned in the April 7 article. But because it sounds so convincing, the reflection and refraction theory has become an extremely popular one with certain of those people who are not yet prepared to believe the evidence of flying saucers.
Life took the reflection theory to Dr. Ronald Ives, the Cornell geophysicist who recognized the lens-shaped cloud shown on page 20. Dr. Ives is also one of the nation's outstanding authorities on mirages and has spent many years in the areas of the Southwest where the reports of flying saucers have been most frequent. He makes clear that he has not seen a flying saucer himself, but he is convinced that reflections or refractions of even the most remarkable nature will not satisfactorily account for many of the sightings.
Dr. Ives points out that the reflectivity of temperature disparities in the air is so slight (much less than 1%) that it reduces the intensity of the light source to a negligible degree -- far less than the brilliantly luminous objects that have so frequently been seen. Mr. Bryan and a few other dissenters have speculated that these inversion layers may ripple along like the surface of a lake, catching the light from some source like a headlight and making the image appear to race across the sky. But Dr. Ives notes that this would require ideal circumstances. First, assuming that he reflectivity of the layer were great (and it is known to be small) and that a concave reflector effect could be achieved by an exact curving of the layer, the "saucer" would not race by the viewer; it would give an instantaneous flash, and then disappear as soon as the observer or light source moved. The intensely bright light and regular maneuverings of some saucers sighted cannot very well be explained by refraction either.
Strange reflections or refraction mirages have undoubtedly been responsible for a certain number of flying saucer tales, but it is inconceivable that they could satisfactorily explain the 10 sightings that Life reported in detail, or most of the still unsolved sightings in the Air Force's bulging files.
The number of reports of new flying saucers did not increase after the Life article, but it has not diminished either. Newspapers have since carried the news that unidentified, cigar-shaped objects have been winging over Australia. A similar report came from Arizona. The Air Force has noted other saucer accounts from as far away as Malaya.
Meanwhile the Air Force is continuing its investigation and, in fact, is enlarging it -- a considerable change of heart from 2½ years ago when the Air Force announced the project was closed and implied that flying saucers were nonsense. The extent of renewed interest is indicated by the fact that Secretary Finletter had his first briefing on the subject by the project officers only a few weeks ago. To aid in the undertaking Life is making its widespread news services available to Air Force Intelligence for the gathering of pertinent data.
The most interesting of the new reports are accounts of sightings prior to 1947, when the saucer epidemic started. Edwin M. Hudson, an experienced navigator who was in the Merchant marine during World War II, has offered a detailed description of a remarkable fireball which he observed over Port Elizabeth, South Africa, in July 1943. His description agrees in nearly every respect with the bizarre green fireballs seen in the American Southwest five years later. Assuming that these are not the common variety of noisy, blue-green meteors, it gives pause to those who say that they are American or Soviet weapons. It seems incredible that our technology or Russia's could have produced them by 1943.
Life readers can aid the search for the answer to the mystery by reporting the sighting of any strange aerial objects to the nearest Air Force representatives. If you possibly can, photograph any such object you see. At least try to note down all the details you can -- color, shape, brightness, kind of motion and direction. If you have time, hold a coin out in front of you until it hides the object. Measure the distance from the coin to your eye. Try to judge the elevation of the object by moving the coin up to it from the horizon and counting how many coin widths it takes. Note the object's relationship to clouds, and what the clouds look like, and whether the object passes between or in front of any landmarks of a known distance. Try to time how long it takes for the object to pass from one point to another on the horizon. From such notes the Air Force experts may be able to make rough but useful determinations of the size, distance and speed of the object, all of which will help in their effort to find an eventual explanation.
Lubbock, Texas Morning Avalanche - 11 Jun 52
Magazine 'Experts' Keep Controversy Alive
'Lubbock Lights' Again. News
by Kenneth May
Avalanche Staff Writer
The now-famous "Lubbock Lights" have again hit the international spotlight. In the past few days, three national magazines have printed stories concerning flying saucers, including comments by a Texas Tech mathematician and a Harvard professor of astrophysics concerning the lights seen over Lubbock on numerous occasions last fall.
Net result: Condition still as controversial as ever.
Life Magazine, in its issue on the stands last Friday, quoted Dr. R.S. Underwood of the Texas Tech mathematics department concerning his conclusion that the Lubbock Lights traveled at 750 mph at 2,100 feet altitude. Dr. Underwood said he was able to triangulate the lights last Sept, 13 and thus work out the speed and altitude mathematically.
Meanwhile, Time and Look Magazines quoted Dr. Donald H. Menzel of Harvard on his opinion that "flying saucer" reports are simple mirages: that he has, in fact, reproduced similar phenomena in his basement laboratory.
But Dr. Underwood thinks Dr. Menzel failed to prove his point; Dr. Menzel thinks any explanation other than his is an attempt to romanticize the flying saucers; the Air Force, publicly at least, hasn't made up its mind; and a Texas Tech scientist on whose observations the Lubbock Lights attracted world-wide attention doesn't agree with either Dr. Menzel or Dr. Underwood.
Lights Are Observed
Briefly, Dr. Underwood reported that at 9:20 p.m. Sept. 13, 1951, his wile and three other persons observed the V-shaped light formations commonly seen in the Lubbock area during that period pass directly over their home at 2220 Broadway. Simultaneously, he said his father-in-law, W.W. Ray of 2417 26th St. saw the lights pass over Lubbock west of his home.
Mrs. Underwood said the lights were traveling southwestward; which would put them to the west of Ray as he observed them. Dr. Underwood concluded the lights passed directly over the public school in Green Acres. He triangulated these three points, noted the change of 30 degrees of arc per second, figured it out, and concluded the lights were about 2,100 feet high and thus traveling at 750 mph.
May Be Slightly OK
"I would say the altitude is correct within 200 to 300 feet," Dr. Underwood told The Avalanche-Journal. "The speed might be off more than that. Now, this same night two groups of observers were stationed outside Lubbock, one five miles east, one five miles west. Neither saw the lights that night, which would corroborate the theory that they were flying at low altitude, with the haze of Lubbock itself cutting out the view of the out-of-city observers."
The Tech professor said the fact that observers at two points saw evidently the same set of "lights" would tend to discount Dr. Menzel's theory in Time and Look that the lights were caused by refraction of light from city street lamps or similar source. The Harvard professor said the Lubbock lights were caused by such light hitting a layer of warm air and refracting into cooler air. Air turbulence would cause the light to appear to move, he said.
"It would be impossible to see the same 'mirage' from separate points, as was done by my wife and her father," said Dr. Underwood. "I think Dr. Menzel's theory probably accounts for some of the flying saucer reports, especially those where the light changes direction suddenly, but such was not the case with the lights seen over Lubbock."
The Lubbock man added that Mrs. Underwood also reported hearing a slight "whishing" sound, such as that made by a Roman candle; and that the string of lights observed by her were "pulsing." The sound would be another indication of comparatively low altitude, he said.
But W.L. Ducker, head of the Tech petroleum engineering department and one of a group of Tech scientists on whose observations the U.S. Air Force investigated the Lubbock Lights, failed to go along with either Dr. Underwood or Dr. Menzel.
Time Not Checked
"The control on the time at which Mrs. Underwood and her father saw the lights was not conclusive enough," Ducker said. He pointed out that the times had not been checked exactly by watches and added that it is impossible to "guess" on the angle above the horizon at which an object is seen. "I know from, personal experience that it can't be done," he said. "We have machines to check the angle exactly and although I have had a great deal of experience in such things, the angle fools the
heck out of me."
Ducker, who with his associates assumed the lights observed by them on several occasions were 50,000 feet high and traveling at 18,000 mph, also said he was with one of the groups of observers stationed outside the city the night Underwood made his calculations.
Difficult for Observation
"The moon was up and it was a bad night, anyway, for observing." said Ducker. "On top of that radio men with us were checking their equipment with a bright light and there were long periods of time when we were partially blinded and could not have seen the lights had they passed over. Therefore, it is entirely possible we could have seen the 9:20 p.m. lights had our eyes been sufficiently accustomed to the darkness."
Backing up Ducker's contention that the lights were several thousands of feet high and, therefore, traveling at multiplied rates of speed were reports checked by The Avalanche-Journal. Cloud formations over the city were 5,000 feet and higher in altitude at the time of several sightings, according to weather observers. But the lights passed above the clouds!
Another interesting phase of the recent national magazine stories is that flying saucer reports have neither increased nor decreased following the publications. That itself would debunk the theory that the sightings are caused by "imagination," or by the power of suggestion.
Life reported its story last April prompted an "unprecedented" response in the term of letters from readers.
The Life story of June 9 reported the Air Force still is investigating flying saucer reports and that "readers can aid the search for the answer to the mystery by reporting the sighting of any strange aerial objects to the nearest Air Force representatives."
Photographs are helpful, the magazine said, but a description of the color, shape, brightness, kind of motion and direction is also needed. A coin may be held, at arm's length until it just hides the object, it added.
"Measure the distance from, the coin to your eye. Try to judge the elevation of the object by moving the coin up to it from the horizon and counting how many coin widths it takes . . . From such notes the Air Force experts may be able to make rough but useful determinations of size, distance and speed of the object, all of which will help in their effort to find an eventual explanation."
Algiers, Algeria Echo d'Alger 11 Jun 52
Flying Saucer Over Meknes, Morocco
Two witnesses reported a flying saucer appearing above Meknes at 1300 hours on 7 June 1952. One of them said that he saw a bright light in the sky moving at lightning speed. He was able to compare its speed with that of some T-33 planes flying near the Meknes base, for they seemed very slow by comparison. The unknown apparatus emitted a white trail of smoke and made no sound. It drew near, described a parabola in the sky, stopped, and then disappeared toward Ifrane in the south.
Santa Fe, New Mexico New Mexican - 11 Jun 52
Is there another "earth," opposite to us in space and hidden by the sun?
Has this "twin earth" developed space ships and discovered us?
This COULD be the explanation of the "flying saucers" . . .
This IS the provocative idea behind a dynamic, exciting, new science-fiction strip . . .
by Oskar Lebeck
Watch for it in The New Mexican
Starting Monday, June 16
Long Beach, California Press-Telegram - 14 Jun 52
Dozen Report It
'Saucer' Flits in Night Sky
NORWALK, June 14 -- It's flying saucers again!
At least a dozen calls were received at the sheriff's station here, shortly after 9:30 p.m., Friday, reporting what the informants believed to be a "flying saucer" over the Artesia-Bellflower-Lakewood areas.
The object was described as emitting a strange orange glow, flying in a circular path above the area. Observers said it was very high and flying very fast.
Deputies said it could be seen from the station here but none could identify it. The performance lasted nearly 30 minutes, some viewers said.
Algiers, Algeria Echo d'Alger 16 Jun 52
Flaming Disc Above Taourirt, Morocco
On the morning of 15 June 1952, a strange phenomenon appeared above Taourirt, French Morocco. For 30 seconds, dock workers saw a disc of white flames surrounded by two circular strands, with smoke trailing behind it. The fiery object, which seemed to move earthward, vanished rapidly.
Pulaski, Virginia Southwest Times - 15 Jun 52
Pulaski Flyer Views 'Saucer' While On Trip
LAKELAND, Fla. ( Special) -- Two instructors from the Barlow air base on a routine night flight spotted a rapidly moving bluish-white light in the vicinity of the Plant City.
The conversation went something like this. "It's not the moon," said one. The other retorted, "It isn't a searchlight."
What was it? Instructors James E. Bouldin, of Pulaski, and Charles Shank are not committing themselves as to whether it was a flying saucer or not. They have been taking quite a kidding from the fellows at the base.
Their story now is "We don't say it wasn't a light but we don't say it was."
Butte, Montana Standard - 15 Jun 52
Meteor Blast Causes Jitters
(From the Helena Independent-Record) -- What scientists agree was a giant meteor exploded over the city of Seattle with no damage except to the nerves of the people. Under ordinary circumstances such an occurrence would be regarded as nothing more than a celestial phenomenon, but after months of reports of flying saucers and fear of guided missiles the incident took on a more sinister aspect.
So certain have the people become that destruction will come from the heavens they see in anything unusual in the sky a portent of the end of earthly security.
Nor will they be satisfied with scientific explanations of the Seattle incident, so certain are they that it was a man-made contrivance sent over with harmful intent.
There is no ground for such belief. If Russia intends to bomb this nation, there will be no experiments. The Reds won't tip their hand by displaying samples.
Man has become so fearful of his future that the explosion of an apparently harmless meteor gives him a bad case of jitters. He has not only lost faith in his own future, but also in his ability to stand against forces which have been part of human existence since the beginning.
Pulaski, Virginia Southwest Times - 16 Jun 52
State Wondering At Appearance Of 'Shiny Thing'
RICHMOND -- A mysterious and shiny "thing" flashed across the southside Virginia horizon yesterday and astronomers, weather bureau officials and science fiction writers took turns today guessing was the "thing" a meteorite? Or -- here we go again -- a flying saucer?
To some, it appeared round. To others, oblong.
To some, it was big. To others, small.
Sheriff P.W. Simpson, of Powhatan county described the "thing" as "very high and in the shape of a spinning top, with two lights in the big part."
Commonwealth's Attorney William Blandford said "it looked just like a parachute at first. It seemed silver and looked like an oval."
Miss Margaret Catterwhite of Richmond, who was traveling in the Powhatan vicinity, said it was a "huge object, shaped like a glass ball."
Among the folks who might know, weather bureau officials said they hadn't seen the weird phenomenon and therefore couldn't offer any help. Astronomers at the University of Virginia observatory said the same thing.
Algiers, Algeria Journal d'Alger 16 Jun 52
Saucer Over Casablanca
After Meknes and Marrakech, Casablanca had its flying saucer on 15 June 1952. It was observed by Andre Assorin, a former pilot. The Meteorological Bureau claims that it has not seen this unusual apparition above Casablanca.
Newswire Report Agence France Presse - 17 Jun 52
Barcelonnette, France -- A bright light appeared in the sky on the night of June 16-17 above the mountain called "The Gendarme's Hat", at an altitude of about 10,000 feet.
After travelling in a straight line to the northwest for about 5 seconds, the light shot upward at a dizzying speed, leaving a short trail of green color and disappeared. The phenomenon lasted only ten seconds and produced no sound.
Phoenix, Arizona Republic - 17 Jun 52
Over the Nation -- 'Round the World
Los Angeles. A University of California at Los Angeles scientist has designed a camera which he hopes will reveal the true nature of the much storied flying saucers, it became known Monday.
A UCLA spokesman said he knew of the camera project but refused to name the scientist. The spokesman said the cameras, of which 200 are being made, contain a diffraction grid which breaks the images of flying saucers into many parts. The scientist expects the pictures will reveal the saucers' composition and source of light.
1. Many of the foreign publications quoted in this series come from translations provided within CIA documents of the time, now released under the Freedom of Information Act. A lesser number, primarily French publications, come from the (now-defunct) French site Ufologie.net.
2. Captain Edward J. Ruppelt, the chief of Project Blue Book in 1952, wrote several times of Menzel's atmospheric mirage theory. In a 1952 article for the classified Air Intelligence Digest Ruppelt wrote...
Reflection and refraction theories as natural explanation of UAO reports are questioned by authorities like Dr. Ronald Ives, the Cornell geophysicist, who is an outstanding authority on mirages. Dr. Ives points out that the reflectivity of temperature disparities in the air is so slight that it reduces the intensity of the light source to a negligible degree -- far less bright than the brilliantly luminous objects that have been so frequently seen.
In May, 1954, after leaving Project Blue Book and returning to civilian life, Ruppelt wrote an article for True magazine, titled What Our Air Force Found Out About Flying Saucers, in which he stated...
Professor Donald H. Menzel, in a book entitled Flying Saucers -- History, Myth, Facts, attempted a single explanation for the stubborn 20 percent of unknowns that the project could not account for. His theory was that "this mysterious residue consists of the rags and tags of meteorological optics, mirages, reflections in mist, refraction and reflections of ice crystals." His explanation failed to account for the many cases where there was a simultaneous radar fix on a UFO and a visual sighting. Mirages and reflections can and do fool the naked eye, but they don't show up simultaneously on a radar scope.
In his 1956 book, The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects, Ruppelt had this to say about Menzel's atmospheric mirage theory as well as Lidell's Skyhook balloon explanation...
Periodically throughout the history of the UFO people have come up with widely publicized theories to explain all UFO reports. The one that received the most publicity was the one offered by Dr. Donald Menzel of Harvard University. Dr. Menzel, writing in Time, Look, and later in his Flying Saucers, claimed that all UFO reports could be explained as various types of light phenomena. We studied this theory thoroughly because it did seem to have merit. Project Bear's physicists studied it. ATIC's scientific consultants studied it and discussed it with several leading European physicists whose specialty was atmospheric physics. In general the comments that Project Blue Book received were, "He's given the subject some thought but his explanations are not the panacea."
And there were other widely publicized theories. One man said that they were all skyhook balloons, but we knew the flight path of every skyhook balloon and they were seldom reported as UFO's. Their little brothers, the weather balloons, caused us a great deal more trouble.
[Note: "Project Bear" referred to above was a reference to an Air Force contract with the Battelle Memorial Institute.]
In The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects, Ruppelt also referred to Menzel's theory as it applied to multiple sighting reports by multiple personnel at General Mills Aeronautical Research Laboratories in Minneapolis, Minnesota who were directly responsible for the Skyhook balloon program...
Astrophysicist Dr. Donald Menzel, in a book entitled Flying Saucers, says they saw a refracted image of their own balloon caused by an atmospheric phenomenon. Maybe he is right, but the General Mills people don't believe it. And their disagreement is backed up by years of practical experience with the atmosphere, its tricks and its illusions.
In The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects Ruppelt also addressed the Lubbock Lights as follows...
Although the case of the Lubbock Lights is officially dead, its memory lingers on. There have never been any more reliable reports of "flying wings" but lights somewhat similar to those seen by the professors have been reported. In about 70 per cent of these cases they were proved to be birds reflecting city lights.
The known elements of the case, the professors' sightings and the photos, have been dragged back and forth across every type of paper upon which written material appears, from the cheapest, coarsest pulp to the slick Life pages. Saucer addicts have studied and offered the case as all-conclusive proof, with photos, that UFO's are interplanetary. Dr. Donald Menzel of Harvard studied the case and ripped the sightings to shreds in Look, Time, and his book, Flying Saucers, with the theory that the professors were merely looking at refracted city lights. But none of these people even had access to the full report. This is the first time it has ever been printed.
The only other people outside Project Blue Book who have studied the complete case of the Lubbock Lights were a group who, due to their associations with the government, had complete access to our files. And these people were not pulp writers or wide-eyed fanatics, they were scientists -- rocket experts, nuclear physicists, and intelligence experts. They had banded together to study our UFO reports because they were convinced that some of the UFO's that were being reported were interplanetary spaceships and the Lubbock series was one of these reports. The fact that the formations of lights were in different shapes didn't bother them; in fact, it convinced them all the more that their ideas of how a spaceship might operate were correct.
This group of scientists believed that the spaceships, or at least the part of the spaceship that came relatively close to the earth, would have to have a highly swept-back wing configuration. And they believed that for propulsion and control the craft had a series of small jet orifices all around its edge. Various combinations of these small jets would be turned on to get various flight attitudes. The lights that the various observers saw differed in arrangement because the craft was flying in different flight attitudes.
(Three years later the Canadian Government announced that this was exactly the way that they had planned to control the flying saucer that they were trying to build. They had to give up their plans for the development of the saucer-like craft, but now the project has been taken over by the U.S. Air Force.)
This is the complete story of the Lubbock Lights as it is carried in the Air Force files, one of the most interesting and most controversial collection of UFO sightings ever to be reported to Project Blue Book. Officially all of the sightings, except the UFO that was picked up on radar, are unknowns.
Personally I thought that the professors' lights might have been some kind of birds reflecting the light from mercury-vapor street lights, but I was wrong. They weren't birds, they weren't refracted light, but they weren't spaceships. The lights that the professors saw—the backbone of the Lubbock Light series—have been positively identified as a very commonplace and easily explainable natural phenomenon.
It is very unfortunate that I can't divulge exactly the way the answer was found because it is an interesting story of how a scientist set up complete instrumentation to track down the lights and how he spent several months testing theory after theory until he finally hit upon the answer. Telling the story would lead to his identity and, in exchange for his story, I promised the man complete anonymity. But he fully convinced me that he had the answer, and after having heard hundreds of explanations of UFO's, I don't convince easily.
With the most important phase of the Lubbock Lights "solved" -- the sightings by the professors -- the other phases become only good UFO reports.
3. In a November, 1952 report to Project Blue Book on the status of research and analysis by the Battelle Memorial Institute it was noted...
Dr. J. Allen Hynek, of Ohio State University, attended the Boston meeting of the Optical Society of America on October 11, 1952. The Society took cognizance this year of the many reports of unusual aerial phenomena by including three invited papers on the subject in their otherwise straightforward scientific meeting. One of the invited papers was by Dr. Hynek, entitled "Unusual Aerial Phenomena". The other two papers were by Drs. Menzel and Liddell [sic, should be Liddel], of Harvard Observatory and the Atomic energy Commission, respectively.
The papers of Menzel and Liddell, though differing somewhat in content, were identical in spirit. Both papers were characterized by the fact that numerous explanations for unexplained sightings were given without a single reference to a specific sighting in the files of the Air Technical Intelligence Command. Both papers presented a series of well-worn statements as to how jet fighters, meteors, reflections from balloons and aircraft, and optical effects, such as sundogs and mirages, could give rise to "flying saucer" reports. Since there was nothing new in either of the two papers, the trip from that standpoint was unproductive.
The paper by Dr. Hynek, in essence, was to the effect that flying saucers represented a science-public relations problem that when a sighting is made by several people, at least one of whom is an experienced observer, the mutually corroborated reports are entitled to a scientific hearing, rather than ridicule. It stressed the point that here was a subject in which the public has shown great interest. It was recommended that the relatively few well-screened reports be dealt with specifically to see whether any of the causes suggested by Drs. Liddell and Menzel are applicable, and, if so, to make this known in these specific instances. On the other hand, if the suggested explanations of Drs. Liddell and Menzel do not explain well-screened cases, this should also be made known and given further scientific study.
In conclusion, it was the opinion of Dr. Hynek that little was gained by attendance at the meeting. The results were negative in the sense that it was confirmed, as Dr. Hynek already believed, that Drs. Liddell and Menzel had not studied the literature and the evidence and, hence, were not qualified to speak with authority on the subject of recent sightings of unidentified aerial
An attempt to arrange a meeting by Dr. Hynek with Dr. Menzel, Dr. Liddell, and Dr. Billings, after the meeting was over, was unsuccessful because Liddell and Billings both had to leave immediately after the meeting.
4. Dr. Menzel notably declined to put his theories to the test, as revealed in a prepared written statement from the Air Force given to Major Donald Keyhoe in 1952. The statement, as printed in Keyhoe's book Flying Saucers From Outer Space...
These explanations were known to the Project, and carefully considered, long before Menzel published his theories. They explain only a small per cent of the sightings . . . At the request of ATIC, prominent scientists analyzed Menzel's claims. None of them accepted his answers . . . Dr. Menzel was invited by Project Bluebook to apply his theories to any or all of the unexplained sightings, using Project records cleared for this purpose. He has not availed himself of this offer.
Keyoe had also submitted a list of questions to the Air Force specifically asking if it accepted Menzel's explanations of three famous cases, to which the Air Force answer to all three was "no". Kehoe had also asked the following question and received the following answer...
Question: "Did Dr. Menzel obtain all available ATIC records in these three cases?" Answer: "He did not obtain this information. In answer to a query, he was offered all Project data on these and other cases, through usual channels. We have heard nothing further from Dr. Menzel in regard to this."
In a 1962 letter Menzel acknowledged the offer had been made, but claimed...
At one time they had offered to do so but tried to impose the restrictions of classification on me. This I refused to do.
Why the "restrictions of classification" would pose any problem to Menzel -- who had been engaged in highly classified work for the military during the war -- was left unexplained in the letter. And the extent of any such "restrictions" would seem to have been very slight in any case, as it occurred in the same time period as Life reporter Robert Ginna had been given unprecedented access in March, 1952. In addition in summer, 1952, Major Keyhoe -- a well-known advocate not only for the reality of the saucers but of their extraterrestrial source -- was given nearly unfettered access to Blue Book files, from which he not only quoted liberally in his 1953 book Flying Saucers From Outer Space but which included many behind the scenes opinions and activities of Blue Book personnel, including the use of their actual names. This, in combination with Menzel's claim of intolerable "restrictions", makes even more curious the claim by Menzel in his 1953 book Flying Saucers...
Scientists who might have easily provided the key that would unlock the secrets of the saucers did not receive detailed information necessary for a serious study of the whole problem.
5. Dr. C.C. Wylie was either remarkably uninformed or disingenuous in his assertion "not one 'saucer' has been reported in astronomical work", for since early April there had been widespread publicity about the reported sighting by Clyde Tombaugh -- discoverer of Pluto -- revealed in the Life magazine article "Have We Visitors From Space?". That same article also told in detail the sighting by "one of the U.S.'s top astronomers" (later revealed to be Dr. Lincoln LaPaz, head of the Institute of Meteoritics at the University of New Mexico).
6. In his monthly Status Report on Project Blue Book, dated April 30, 1952, Capt. Ruppelt reported the following as regards the Life magazine article...
Reaction to Life Magazine Article
On 4 April 1952, Life Magazine published an extensive article entitled, "Have We Visitors From Space?" This article created a great deal of interest in the subject of unidentified aerial objects. During the period of 3 April to 6 April 1952, approximately 350 daily newspapers in all parts of the United States carried some mention of the article and some mention of the fact that the Air Force was interested in receiving such reports .
It should be noted here that the conclusions reached by Life are not those of the Air Force. No proof exists that these objects are from outer space.
ATIC received approximately 110 letters in regards to the article. The letters are divided among those that offer theories as to the origin of the objects as well as those reporting objects. The letters offering theories comprise about 20 percent of the total. Although it cannot be stated that the theories are incorrect, a majority of them cannot be further evaluated since they have very little scientific basis. The letters which reported sightings comprised about 80 percent of the total. All but a few of these letters reported sighting that occurred within the last two years. The writers of these letters ranged from mystics to highly educated individuals.
All letters have been acknowledged.
It has been reported that Life Magazine has received 700 letters in response to the article.
7. The Life article "Saucer Reactions" included mention of Capt. Ruppelt's briefing of Secretary of the Air Force Thomas K. Finletter. In his monthly Status Report on Project Blue Book, dated May 31, 1952, Capt. Ruppelt reported as follows...
Briefings on Project Blue Book
On 8 and 9 May 1952, three briefings were given on Project Blue Book in Washington, D.C. The people briefed included Secretary of Air Finletter, Major General Samford and Brig General Ackerman of the Directorate of Intelligence, Brig General Maxwell of the Research and Development Board, and members of the Office of Naval Research.
In his 1956 book The Report On Unidentified Flying Objects Ruppelt provided a little more detail...
Requests for briefings came even from the highest figure in the Air Force, Thomas K. Finletter, then the Secretary for Air. On May 8, 1952, Lieutenant Colonel R. J. Taylor of Colonel Dunn's staff and I presented an hour-long briefing to Secretary Finletter and his staff. He listened intently and asked several questions about specific sightings when the briefing was finished. If he was at all worried about the UFO's he certainly didn't show it. His only comment was, "You're doing a fine job, Captain. It must be interesting. Thank you."
Then he made the following statement for the press:
"No concrete evidence has yet reached us either to prove or disprove the existence of the so-called flying saucers. There remain, however, a number of sightings that the Air Force investigators have been unable to explain. As long as this is true, the Air Force will continue to study flying saucer reports."
8. In regard to the July 16, 1952, Pulaski, Virginia Southwest Times report that a "mysterious and shiny 'thing' flashed across the southside Virginia horizon yesterday", Blue Book files reveal an investigation based on reports from other sources, including CAA tower personnel, a Marine captain at Quantico -- all observations from the ground – and an Air Force jet pilot who reported it from the air. Plotting the course and timing of the reports Blue Book estimated a speed for the object of 37 mph. A part of the report does say that "interception was attempted by Langley Air Force base, with 'negative' results," but gives not other details. The total time the object was in view was approximately two hours. Based on the above as well as a report from Pennsylvania of a lost weather balloon which could have approximated the path of the reported object Blue Book classified the incident as "balloon".
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