Image: Saturday Night Uforia Logo

the positively
true story of
kenneth arnold



Above: Western Union Telegram sent by Kenneth Arnold, August 31, 1947.

ON AUGUST 6, 1947, two individual newspapers in two separate states told of two different plane crashes occurring two days apart.

One of the two stories was from the August 6, 1947 edition of the Oakland, California Tribune...


A "flying disc" hoax caused the death of two veteran Army fliers, who crashed in their plane last week while returning from Tacoma and an investigation of a "flying disc" explosion, it was learned today from official Army sources.

The officers died presumably without knowing that the metal fragments they were carrying in the plane were ordinary, harmless metallic stones picked up along a beach.

The civilians responsible have admitted the hoax, Army officers said.

The story of the crash of a B-25 bomber near Kelso, Wash. Friday while on a flight from McChord Field to Hamilton Field is expected to be released by the Army tonight.


Officers were awaiting the full report of the Aircraft Accident Commission and of investigating officers before making all facts public.

The story as revealed unofficially is:

Two Army Air Corps Intelligence officers, Capt. William L. Davidson, of 587 24th Avenue, San Francisco, the pilot, and First Lieut. Frank M. Brown, of 21 Sunset Street, Vallejo, went to Tacoma to investigate a report that a "flying disc" had struck a boat near Maury Island, Wash.

The report made by the boat owners at the time was graphic to the point of seeing the mysterious "plate" explode in the air before a piece swished by, knocking a horn off the small craft and inflicting minor damage.


The story, evidently told "in fun," grew beyond expectations and was heard by two civilian pilots conducting their own investigation, Kenneth Arnold, the man who first saw a "saucer," and United Air Lines Capt. E.J. Smith, the transport pilot who said he followed nine discs on July 4.

The two Army officers went to Tacoma to interview Arnold and Smith, according to Brig. Gen Ned Schramm, Fourth Air Force chief of staff, who admitted after the crash that the air force was conducting a Nation-wide investigation in connection with "flying disc" reports.

While there, the officers apparently obtained pieces of metal which were reported to have been part of the crashed disc.


Harold Dahl and Fred L. Crisman of Tacoma, who were quoted as saying the pieces had struck their boat, later denied giving Arnold, Smith or the two Army officers any parts of a "flying disc," but exhibited a pasteboard box full of metallic stones which Dahl said he had picked up on the beach.

Captain Davidson and Lieutenant Brown were returning to Hamilton field with these bits of metal and their report when the plane crashed.

The plane developed engine trouble shortly after leaving McChord Field at 2 a.m. and dropped a flare over the Longview area and then was seen with one engine afire. Two men, the crew chief and a passenger were ordered by the pilots into parachutes and jumped to safety from the burning plane.

Davidson and Brown were found dead in the wreckage, eight miles east of Kelso.

The second story of an airplane crash appearing on August 6, 1947 was in the Reno, Nevada State Journal...

Disc Discoverer Escapes Injury

PENDLETON, Ore , Aug. 5. (UP) -- Kenneth Arnold, Boise businessman who started the national epidemic of flying saucer stories, last night escaped injury when his light plane crashed here as he was taking off for Boise.

CAA said the motor "conked out" after he had climbed to 30 feet. The plane fell to the runway, bending the landing gear and breaking the main spar of the left wing.

Arnold's crash had occurred on his flight home to Boise, Idaho, two days after the deaths of Capt. Davidson and Lt. Brown. He would later write of his crash, starting with his departure from Tacoma, Washington...

I started my airplane, warmed it up good, checked both my magnetoes at full throttle, checked my gas lines, fuel valves and so on. Everything seemed to be in perfect order. Although it was rather late in the day it was only about a four-hour flight to Boise. When I got the weather sequence on my radio I knew I would have a twenty to thirty miles per hour tail wind at the higher altitudes.

I was anxious to get going! I shoved the throttle clear to the instrument panel and took off, feeling a little unsteady about everything but glad I was going home at last. As I circled the airport, I could still see Captain Smith looking up at me. I headed for home.

I climbed to an altitude of about eight thousand feet. I felt a lot better after crossing the Cascades and started to let down over the Columbia River with the intention of landing at Pendleton, Oregon to get gasoline. Everything was running smoothly.

I landed at Pendleton and the boys there gassed up my airplane. I got out of the cockpit to stretch my legs but stayed close to my plane. I signed my credit slip and with a full gas tank was ready to take off again for home. I wasn't tarrying as the hours of daylight were numbered. I had navigation lights but I didn't have a battery in my ship to operate them so had to make it home before dark.

I recall flipping my controls to indicate to the tower operator I was going to take off. The tower operator knew me and knew I had a receiver. He always came over the receiver to me if for some reason I should hold. Everything seemed fine. My plane was running well. Again I shoved the throttle clear to the stop. My engine roared and I was off the ground.

I reached an altitude which I would judge was around fifty feet. My engine stopped cold. It was as if every piston had been frozen solid. It never even gave a dying bark.

To take off and have an engine stop at that low altitude is probably the most dangerous thing that can happen in an airplane. You don't have enough speed to sustain you for a normal landing in most craft. Your only choice for putting her down is straight ahead, with no power and little or no lift from the surfaces of your wings.

Instinctively I dove the plane straight at the ground until I must have been within ten feet of the runway, then came back on the stick as fast as I dared in an attempt to level off without causing an abrupt stall. My little airplane came through. I was sinking fast but I set it down on all three points.

The shock was pretty hard. My left landing gear was badly bent and my left spar was broken in two. At the moment I didn't know what had happened. I thought the engine had frozen. I was unhurt. I jumped out of the cockpit, ran around to the front of the plane and turned the propeller. It was loose and easy. People came running out to see what was the matter.

I was curious to see if my engine would start again. I scooted around the wing and back into the cockpit. There I discovered what had caused my engine to stop. Until this is written, I have kept this a secret to myself. My fuel valve was shut off. I knew instantly there was only one person who could have shut that fuel valve off -- and that was myself.

I turned the valve back on. One of the fellows swung the propeller. My engine started immediately and ran smoothly. I taxied my plane rather limpingly into the hangar. I was scared stiff.

I didn't tell anyone what had happened for the simple reason that no one would believe me. The realization that my thought or mind in some peculiar way was being controlled or dictated to or that it could have caused this to happen would seem perfectly preposterous to anyone who had not experienced what I had just experienced.

I was in no respect accustomed to turning my fuel valve off. I only did so when my plane was either leaking gas through the carburetor float or when I put it away in storage. I elected not to say anything to anyone until I had some logical reason within my mind to explain why I could do such a ridiculous thing. The care and precautions I had always exercised before taking off and which had become an established habit with me for over three years had somehow failed.

I had to have time to think this out and I knew it had to be done by myself.

And it was with those words that Kenneth Arnold concluded his part in the 1952 book The Coming of the Saucers, which told Arnold's version of events at Tacoma in 1947 -- now more commonly known as the "Maury Island Incident".

The book had been co-written and published by Raymond Palmer. It had been Palmer -- at the time the editor in chief of Amazing Stories -- who had paid Arnold to go to Tacoma to investigate the stories of Harold Dahl and Fred Crisman. It had been Palmer who in 1948 had published Kenneth Arnold's personal account of Arnold's initial sighting of "flying saucers" in the first issue of Palmer's Fate magazine. And it had been Palmer who co-wrote and published The Coming of the Saucers in 1952.

And it may be the influence of Palmer which accounts for the weird coded references and outright deceptions contained in The Coming of the Saucers, Kenneth Arnold's "true" story of the events at Tacoma.

Venture Press Lemuria

Above: Advertisement on the inside front cover of the first issue of Fate magazine in Spring, 1948. Both Fate magazine and Venture Press were owned by Raymond Palmer.

PALMER WAS IN A STATE of professional flux at that time in 1947 when he first engaged Arnold to personally investigate the stories of Harold Dahl and Fred Crisman.

As editor in chief of Amazing Stories Palmer had guided the pulp publication to unprecedented heights in its circulation numbers. But the huge success of Amazing Stories under Palmer's stewardship was directly attributable to the tales of Richard Shaver -- a welder and seer from Pennsylvania -- telling of an evil progenitor race of humans known as the "deros", who lived in vast underground caves and who used ancient advanced technology to bedevil, torment and even murder humans above ground -- often using mental telepathy to achieve the desired result. From a Life magazine article in its May, 1951 issue...

The deros were responsible for all the evil in the world. All catastrophes, from shipwrecks to sprained ankles, were directly attributable to their influence. They often appeared on the surface of the earth and were sufficiently human in appearance to pass unnoticed in a crowd. But they performed most of their harassments by telepathy, rays and other remote-control devices from their subterranean homes. Their underground cities communicated with the surface through various caves which were extremely dangerous for human beings to enter.

The deros first came to light in a story called "I Remember Lemuria," published in 1945 in Amazing Stories. The story was purportedly the work of a Pennsylvania welder named Richard Shaver who, it was alleged, had a "racial memory" capable of recalling events that had happened to mankind since the beginning of time. The "racial memory" idea, it turned out later, was an editorial device thought up by Raymond Palmer, editor of Amazing Stories, to lend verisimilitude to Shaver's account of Lemuria.

And also according to the mythos, the "deros" were opposed by the peace-loving "teros", born of the same stock as the "deros" but dedicated to protecting humankind -- with the battle continuing into the present day.

But though the genesis lay in the unsettled mind of Richard Shaver, it was in fact Palmer who personally "rewrote" Shaver's tales into a publishing phenomenon. By 1947, however, there was a rising outcry from fans of serious science fiction against the fact that it was being portrayed as a true story and was accepted as such by legions of followers. Palmer was ordered by Ziff-Davis, the publisher of Amazing Stories, to desist in his tales of "deros" and "teros", as a result of which Palmer formed a new publishing enterprise under the name of "Venture Press" to continue his work as he saw fit -- and no doubt also knowing that the rich vein of Shaver followers had yet to be fully tapped.

Which probably accounts for the fact that coded references to deros and teros would be found scattered throughout The Coming of the Saucers. For instance, in Ken Arnold's story of being told by Harold Dahl the contents a letter he had received...

Dahl said this anonymous writer told him that the flying disks were actually manned by beings such as we, only less dense, so to speak, than we are. Due to the atomic explosions, the radiation now released in the atmosphere had caused these things to become visible to us on earth. These flying disks, which were all shapes and sizes, were the vehicles which the gods of this earth used to protect this earth from outside dark influences or enemies. Actually flying disks were and had been for thousands of years the protectors of life on this earth. The letter went on further, Dahl said, to say that these beings which manned the flying disks were under a severe attack by other beings who were enemies of the people and life on this planet.

The impression I got from what he told me about this letter was the flying disks were supposedly the intelligence called gods by the Indians and by all those who claim they have appealed for help from them and have received it.

The above had been preceded by Arnold's description of the departure of Lt. Frank Brown and Capt. William Davidson, the military investigators who had come to Tacoma at Arnold's request...

All of a sudden, Brown and Davidson lost all their enthusiasm. They were not interested any more. They got up to leave. Captain Smith and I invited them to stay the rest of the night with us. The room we had was large and we proposed having two fold-down beds brought in. They would have none of it. They were flying back at once.

And though it was never directly stated, the above would have fit well with the mind-control powers of the "dero" -- for those who knew and believed in Shaver's tales. As would Arnold's pondering about the actions of Davidson and Brown on the fatal flight...

It was never completely explained by the military why Lieutenant Frank M. Brown and Captain William Davidson did not notify anyone by radio signifying their distress nor why they hadn't parachuted also. According to the hitch-hiker's remark a good ten minutes elapsed between the time he was shoved out of the B-25 until the fire reached serious proportions and the plane started to dive to earth near Kelso, Washington. The estimated altitude of his jump was 10,000 feet It takes a long time to descend from that height by parachute. Swaying from his 'chute, he said he watched the burning plane a long time before getting near the earth.

The coded reference to "deros" would also fit with Arnold's claim that a mysterious informant who had been in contact with Tacoma reporters had said that Brown and Davidson's plane had been "sabotaged", and that such sabotage had occurred before in other crashes...

A recent crash at LaGuardia Field, New York was caused by sabotage, he claimed, the gust locks having been left on purposely to sabotage the plane. Also the passenger transport that crashed carrying singer Grace Moore to her death in Copenhagen, Denmark, had similarly been sabotaged.

And then, of course, there was the matter of Arnold's own plane crash...

The realization that my thought or mind in some peculiar way was being controlled or dictated to or that it could have caused this to happen would seem perfectly preposterous to anyone who had not experienced what I had just experienced.

As it turns out, however, the Air Force accident investigation of the deaths of Capt. Davidson and Lt. Brown gave a far more prosaic -- and terrifying -- account of the crash of the B-25. From the "Final Mission Report", dated August 4, 1947...

At 0700 PST Capt. LITTRELL departed in a C-45 for KELSO... No aerial search was necessary as civilians in the area knew the exact location of the crash and had reported finding one (1) body in the wreckage. CAPT. LITTRELL prepared to fly Sgt's TAFF and MATHEWS to MCCHORD FIELD for medical attention, arriving at 0945 PST. The survivors stated that they believed neither the pilot nor co-pilot has parachuted from the plane. The cause of the incident was at this time determined to be a fire in the left engine. CAPT. LITTRELL was informed by Sgt. TAFF that he believed classified documents had been aboard the plane; CAPT. FORSBERG was instructed to take the necessary precautions. An ambulance met the plane at MCCHORD FIELD carrying the two survivors and took them to the hospital. Interrogation revealed that the left engine had caught fire in the power section and flames and smoke had spread to the flight deck almost immediately. The crew chief, MATHEWS, assisted TAFF in attaching his chest pack and TAFF abandoned the plane at an estimated altitude of 10,000 ft (this fact is doubted but is not considered necessarily relevant). MATHEWS helped the pilot and co-pilot attach their chest packs (all personnel had been wearing the harness) and as he left the plane was aware that the co-pilot was preparing to follow. The pilot had started to leave and, to the best recollection of MATHEWS, was partially standing and holding the control wheel with his left hand. MATHEW'S statements indicate that proper emergency procedures had been performed but that the flames had enveloped the entire left side almost immediately. TAFF stated that, because of the full moon and good visibility, he saw MATHEWS leave the plane and was able to follow the plane to the ground and that he saw no one else bail out. The ship was enveloped in flames and was beginning to fall apart before hitting the ground where it exploded and burned about one (1) mile from where he, TAFF, landed... Meanwhile, as MATHEWS cleared the plane he turned and saw the plane strike the ground, explode and burn. Just before or just at the time of impact he saw an object afire thrown clear of the plane but did not know whether it was a person or part of the plane... The ground party determined upon arrival at the scene, that two (2) bodies were in the wreckage. Indications led to the belief that the co-pilot was afire when he left the plane an instant before impact. The pilot's remains were found in the wreckage. Preliminary investigation by CAPT. FORSBERG disclosed the planes left wing about one hundred twenty-five (125) yards from the widely scattered portions of the plane... The aileron was undamaged but the flap section was crushed, leading to the belief that the wing struck the tail section. From these indications it is believed the wing ripped from the airplane just after MATHEWS abandoned the plane. The resulting spin thus prevented the remaining crew members from bailing out although the co-pilot may have been in the hatch...

The gruesome details of the crash stand in stark contradiction to Arnold's description of Taff -- the passenger who was the first to bail out -- saying that "a good ten minutes elapsed between the time he was shoved out of the B-25 until the fire reached serious proportions". For as the above investigation report reveals, the plane crashed "about one mile" from where Taff landed, and Sgt. Mathews -- the second survivor -- told investigators "that the flames had enveloped the entire left side almost immediately".

But contradiction to fact was not uncommon in The Coming of the Saucers -- Arnold's "true" story of events at Tacoma.


Above, left: First issue of Fate magazine in Spring, 1948. Above, right: Cover for "The Coming of the Saucers", 1952.

THERE ARE TWO PRIMARY contemporaneous sources against which to compare the tale told in The Coming of the Saucers, published five years after the events at Tacoma. The first source consists of FBI investigations -- complete with detailed statements taken from all the primary players, including Arnold himself -- within three weeks of the events.

The second contemporaneous source, oddly enough, is in Ken Arnold's first version of his tale, written for the premiere issue of Raymond Palmer's Fate magazine within five months of the events (that issue notes that it went "to press" in December, 1947).

It had been Palmer's desire to have an article from Arnold on his June 24, 1947, sighting which had moved Palmer to contact Arnold by letter in the first place. Then in mid-July Palmer wrote Arnold again, this time telling him of the stories of Dahl and Crisman and telling Arnold that Palmer would "be willing to pay expenses plus a nice amount to make it worth your while" if Arnold would go to Tacoma and investigate. Just before leaving for Tacoma Arnold mailed off his first article to Palmer. And two days after Arnold left Tacoma, Palmer wrote requesting Arnold's written account of those events as well. From an August 5, 1947 letter from Palmer to Arnold, under the letterhead of Venture Press (names blacked out on declassified copy included in brackets when known, and in occasions of blacked-out names of seven letters Crisman's name is assumed to be the most logical reference)...

It seems that Mr. [Maurice Roddy] of the Chicago Times got the story from Mr. [Smith], because he called me, told me he was running it. I knew only what you'd told me over the phone. Now, it seems the newspapers are pestering the very devil out of all you fellows. [Crisman] wired me for instructions, and I told him to say nothing to the newspapers, because he'll look silly if the army explains this as "meteors" or something like that.

I don't blame you for being alarmed, but I trust you've had no trouble in your flying since then. Let's get that straight -- there's no horrible plot involved. It's probably true that the two men killed were just accidents. It could be true that it was not an accident, but I don't think there was any connection with the disks, or anything of that nature, nor is the material from Murray [sic] Island to blame.

Certainly I don't think you'd suffer from completing your report on your mission, and sending me your affidavit. Also, you'll have some money coming for that, and no sense tossing that out of the window. It is unfortunate that the thing seemed so big you had to call in army intelligence, but it will take them a long time to proceed to the point I've reached in this disk mystery. You see, you aren't the first to see them. They've been known for nearly forty years, and I have ample proof of that. But your experience was the first real break toward a solution. I'd hate to have you drop the matter when all remaining to do is to file your report with me.

[Crisman] is willing to contribute his share. I hope you will too. This thing must not be hushed up and forgotten. It's much too important to the people of America, if not the world. And no censorship of the matter is legal. You needn't fear that angle. You certainly did a bang-up job of investigation, also you wrote one of the best articles about your June 24 experience I've ever seen. Please do the same on this last business. You owe it to those two men who were killed.

I'd also like to know what developed on those pictures you took of those "ducks" or whatever they were.

In short, I'd like to have you continue to keep in contact with me, and relay to me anything further you learn.

In turn, I'll give you the whole story, which I'm just about ready to break (not in the newspapers). And if it was as dangerous as you seem to suspect, I'm afraid I'd have been a corpse long ago!

But, and this is all you need remember, those disks are not red corpuscles in your eyeball, and they are not something we can forget about with an ostrich in the sand attitude. We've got to solve them, public hysteria or no. As for that hysteria, if laughing is hysteria, that's all the hysteria I've noticed!

By all [Illegible]. You know your business, and you handled it like a major. But I'm hoping you do the easy part now and get that report on paper.

A check for your June 24 article is going out to you.

And as a result, the first issue of Fate magazine not only featured Arnold's recounting of his first "saucer" sighting on June 24th, but also included a separate article by Arnold on the events at Tacoma -- this time more closely matching the witness statements given to the FBI within three weeks of the events, and often contradicting the tale told in The Coming of the Saucers, written five years after the events.

In The Coming of the Saucers, for instance, Arnold writes that he left for Tacoma at dawn on July 29, 1947, got a hotel room at the Winthrop, then called and met with Harold Dahl. The next morning, July 30, Arnold says he met with Dahl and Crisman, and then called Capt. E.J. Smith, asking him to join the investigation. Arnold writes that he then flew his plane to Seattle, picked up and flew Smith back to Tacoma, after which Smith personally listened to Dahl and Crisman's stories. Following this Crisman drove Smith back to Seattle so Smith could pick up his own car. That night all four met again. Arnold writes that after Dahl and Crisman left, just as Arnold and Smith were settling down to sleep, a phone call came from reporter Ted Morello saying an anonymous informant had filled him in on all that had gone in the room, including conversations between Arnold and Smith after the departure of Dahl and Crisman. Arnold then writes that the next day, Thursday, July 31, 1947, he got the idea to call in Capt. Davidson and Lt. Brown, the intelligence officers...

I remember when I said, "Let's call in Military Intelligence," Smithy could hardly contain himself. He rather reluctantly and dryly, but seriously from all outward appearances, answered, "It might be a good idea."

But Arnold would give a quite different version of events in his article for Fate magazine, starting with his arrival date...

It was July 30 at dawn I took off in my own plane... It was dusk when I landed at Barry's Airport, which is a little airport located down on the mud flats.

In his article for Fate magazine, Arnold also describes the circumstances behind the arrival of Capt. Smith as well as Capt. Davidson and Lt. Brown, as part of a conversation Arnold was having with Dahl and Crisman on the morning of Thursday, July 31...

I ordered breakfast up to the room and we sat around discussing this thing pro and con...

I said, "I think this thing is very serious and I think that it is an investigation that should be conducted by people who are accustomed to investigating things, not by a novice like myself or like yourselves." Crisman agreed with me and Dahl said that he didn't care about talking to military intelligence, but "if Crisman wants to, it's okay with me." I also asked them if they would mind if I asked Captain E.J. Smith of United Airlines to come over and listen to the stories...

I called military intelligence first and I asked for Lt. Frank M. Brown...

After I finished that phone call, I called Captain E.J. Smith... I took off for Seattle to pick up Captain Smith at about four o'clock. Captain Smith was there and we had a cup of coffee and I related a little further the information that I had received from these two men over at Tacoma... we both got in my ship and I took off for Tacoma.

Obviously, the story told in The Coming of the Saucers about Smith being present when Arnold told Dahl and Crisman he was calling in military investigators had been false. Equally apparent, the call from reporter Ted Morello the night of July 30th was the product of imagination. And notably, the story written by Arnold for Fate magazine within five months of the events more closely matched the witness statements given to the FBI within three weeks of the events at Tacoma.

Nor could the fact that The Coming of the Saucers was written five years later, and that memories change over time, be the excuse. For undoubtedly both Palmer and Arnold had easy access to Arnold's 1948 article in Fate magazine -- which is tangentially confirmed by the fact that Arnold's nearly 1200-word quote of Dahl telling of his sighting is identical in both Arnold's article in Fate magazine and in The Coming of the Saucers -- paragraph by paragraph, sentence by sentence, word for word, and punctuation mark by punctuation mark, with the exception of a single word.

Clearly The Coming of the Saucers was written -- at least in part -- with the intent to deceive.


Above: Comic-book version of the events at Tacoma.

THE ACTUAL EVENTS of that time -- as given in witness statements to the FBI -- can be fairly accurately recreated as follows...

WEDNESDAY, JULY 30, 1947 -- Kenneth Arnold flies into Tacoma late in the afternoon and checks into room 502 of the Winthrop hotel. That same night Harold Dahl comes to his room and tells Arnold his story. Arnold and Dahl then go to the home of Dahl's secretary where some of the metal fragments Dahl collected are stored.

THURSDAY, JULY 31, 1947 -- Dahl brings Crisman to Arnold's room in the morning. Arnold tells Dahl and Crisman he is calling in Lt. Brown and Capt. Davidson as well as Capt. Smith. At about the same time that Arnold is placing these calls, first to Lt. Brown and then to Capt. Smith, an anonymous person calls reporter Burt McMurtie at the Tacoma Times, but McMurtie is out and the call is taken by reporter Paul Lantz. The caller tells Lantz that "there was a meeting taking place at that time in room 502 of the Winthrop Hotel concerning the disc fragments found on Maury Island" (more on this call a little later). The caller then hangs up. Sometime thereafter reporter Burt McMurtie calls Arnold about the tip, but Arnold gives McMurtie no information other than he is on a "government mission". In the late afternoon Arnold flies to Seattle and picks up Capt. Smith. Smith then meets with Dahl and Crisman and hears their stories. Crisman then drives Smith to Seattle so that Smith can pick up his car. When the two arrive back about 8:30 p.m. they find Capt. Davidson and Lt. Brown in Arnold's room. Dahl has refused to be present for this, but Crisman relates Dahl's and his own story. At about 12:30 in the morning Capt. Davidson and Lt. Brown depart, carrying back with them a Kellogg's Corn Flakes box given to them by Crisman and containing metal supposedly dropped by the saucer Dahl sighted.

FRIDAY, AUGUST 1, 1947 -- Crisman calls Arnold first thing in the morning to tell him that the B-25 carrying Capt. Davidson and Lt. Brown has crashed, killing both men. Crisman and Dahl both come up to the room. Crisman calls McChord Field to verify that it was the B-25 carrying Davidson and Brown, and Smith takes the receiver from him to verify this for himself. Arnold then calls Raymond Palmer, and Crisman asks to talk to Palmer as well. Smith then calls reporter Maurice Roddy, a reporter for the Chicago Times and personal friend of Smith, and tells Roddy the story of what has occurred. Also that morning, Col. Gregg of McChord Field calls Arnold's room and asks "that Arnold, Smith, Crisman and Dahl submit their addresses to Hamilton Field for convenience of any Army investigation of the incident which may be forthcoming". The four men then go to lunch. At about that same time reporter Paul Lantz of the Tacoma Times receives another call from an anonymous person for Burt McMurtie, telling Lantz that "at the moment there was a big meeting in progress in Arnold's room, 502, in the Winthrop Hotel; that the B-25 which crashed that morning in Kelso was carrying flying disc fragments from California and that McChord Field officials had stated the plane was sabotaged or shot down." The caller then hangs up. Lantz then goes to the Winthrop to see if the anonymous caller could be the hotel's switchboard operator, and then proceeds to Arnold's room where Arnold tells him he can give no information. Lantz says also in the room were Capt. Smith -- who was on the phone at the time -- and "one or two others in the room... but that he could not identify them". At 3:30 p.m. reporter Lantz writes a story on the anonymous caller, phoning Arnold afterwards to read him the story. At 5:30 p.m. a new reporter is added into the mix when Ted Morello of United Press in Tacoma is called by the anonymous caller, who tells Morello that "Captain Davidson and Lieutenant Brown were the Intelligence officers that were killed in the crash of the B-25 and that civilians and the sheriff had been kept away from the wreckage with the Army guarding it" (at the time the Army had not released the names of Davidson and Brown). At 6:45 p.m. Morello receives another call, and the anonymous caller tells him "that the B-25 was definitely shot down". Morello calls Arnold's room and talks to Smith, but Smith refuses to provide any information. Dahl and Crisman leave, promising to take Arnold and Smith to Maury Island the next day to see the tons of metal they say were deposited there by the flying saucer. Arnold and Smith go to dinner. When they return Smith finds a message asking him to call a number which turns out to be that of reporter Paul Lantz. Lantz tells Smith of the two calls from the anonymous caller Lantz had received (one Thursday morning, one Friday morning). Smith is convinced that it was someone present in the room, but gives Lantz no further information. Smith and Arnold then "retired for the night".

SATURDAY, AUGUST 2, 1947 -- Arnold and Smith go to breakfast with Dahl and Crisman. Smith asks Dahl to see the pictures of the flying saucers Dahl had taken, but Dahl can't find them in the glove compartment where he claims he kept them. The four proceed to Dahl's boat to go out to Maury Island, but Crisman then claims the boat needs repair. Smith inspects the boat for the damage supposedly caused by the flying saucer but is unimpressed by the evidence. Crisman and Dahl drive Smith and Arnold back to the hotel, arriving at approximately 10:45 a.m. Crisman says he will call again after the boat is repaired. Smith calls reporter Paul Lantz and asks for a meeting to discuss the anonymous caller. Smith, Arnold and Lantz meet at a coffee shop. Smith and Arnold refuse to provide any information and Lantz tells them he is "afraid of being scooped on the story and was going to print something on that day". Smith and Arnold return to the hotel. Crisman calls but is cut off by the operator because the hotel employees were on strike and it was a non-emergency call. Smith and Arnold receive a telegram telling them to call Dahl. Smith calls the number but Dahl isn't there. Lantz shows up and hands Smith and Arnold "the latest edition of the Tacoma Times which contained a story hinting at sabotage in the crash of the Army B-25". Smith sends a telegram asking Maurice Roddy to call him, and he and Arnold wait in the lobby of the hotel to receive the call, presumably on a pay phone. Paul Lantz calls Smith and tells him to call Lantz back at 8:30 that evening for more information on the anonymous informant. Smith receives a telegram from Dave Johnson of the Idaho Statesman asking Smith to call, which he does. Smith gives Johnson some of the details of the story of the death of Capt. Davidson and Lt. Brown. At 5:30 p.m. United Press reporter Ted Morello receives a call, and the anonymous caller tells him that "one of the men who had been conferring with Captain Smith and Kenneth Arnold was taken to Alaska that day". The anonymous caller also tells Morello "that the B-25 was shot down from the air with a 20 m.m. canon; that the Marine plane found recently on Mt. Rainier had also been shot down; that Captain Smith would be taken to Wright Field Tuesday morning and that a United Airlines pilot by the name of Morgan flew with Captain Smith when they were shot at over Montana". This is the fifth, and last call by the anonymous caller (one Thursday morning to Lantz, one Friday morning to Lantz, two Friday evening to Morello, and one Saturday evening to Morello). At 8:30 p.m. Smith calls reporter Paul Lantz because of Lantz's earlier message to call at that time. Lantz repeats to Smith the information from the anonymous caller given to Morello, including that "one of the men... was taken to Alaska that day". Determined to find out if this is true, Smith tries to locate Crisman and-or Dahl, finally locating Dahl in a theater. Dahl comes to Arnold's room, tells them he doesn't know Crisman's whereabouts, and Dahl "left saying that he would try to find out where Crisman was and that he would call them tomorrow (Sunday) and that they would go out to Maury island at that time". Smith and Arnold go over to see United Press reporter Ted Morello where "they read the latest press releases and had a discussion with Morello regarding the anonymous phone calls". Following this discussion with Morello, at which time Smith states they still refused to divulge any further information, Smith and Arnold returned to the Hotel for the night. As part of the conversation with Morello, Smith is told that Major George Sander, public relations officer at McChord Field, is part of the investigation into the crash of the B-25 carrying Davidson and Brown.

SUNDAY, AUGUST 3, 1947 -- Dahl comes to the hotel room in the morning holding what he says is a letter from Crisman "which said in effect, 'Take care of my business. I'll be out of town for three or four days'". The three then drive to Dahl's secretary's house, pick her up, and go to breakfast. While at breakfast Smith makes a call to Major Sander at McChord field and arranges to meet him back at the hotel. Dahl, his secretary, Smith and Arnold then drop the secretary back at her house, and Dahl drops Arnold and Smith at the hotel. When asked if he is going to be back to take them to Maury Island Dahl replies no, and further "that he was sick of the entire business and that if he was ever contacted by the Army or the authorities he was going to deny ever having seen anything and claim to be 'the biggest liar that ever lived'". Smith then meets Major Sander and goes to a coffee shop with him and tells him his story. Smith then brings Major Sander back to the hotel room where he has Arnold repeat the story to him. Sander tells them they have almost certainly been the victim of a hoax, gathers all the samples of the metal alleged by Dahl to have dropped from a flying saucer, and then drives them out to a smelter dump to show them the likely actual source of the metal. Major Sander then returns them to the hotel, where they pack. Smith then drops Arnold off at the airport, after which Smith continues on to his home in Seattle.

Those are the events at Tacoma as related in statements given to the FBI by Capt. Smith, Paul Lantz, Ted Morello -- and Arnold himself -- with all statements taking place within three weeks of the events.

Events which would morph over time into the tale eventually told by Kenneth Arnold.


Above: Cover and table of contents for the original 1952 hardback. The first 84 pages contained Arnold's story. The remaining 108 pages consisted of general "flying saucer" stories and pictures, and were most likely the work of Raymond Palmer.

THE EVENTS AT TACOMA as portrayed by Arnold five years later in The Coming of the Saucers would give a far more mysterious and sinister overlay to the events, as recounted day by day as follows...

TUESDAY, JULY 29, 1947 -- Kenneth Arnold flies out of Boise without telling anyone but his wife that he's going to Tacoma. He flies into Tacoma late in the afternoon. He phones all over town trying to find a room, but there are none to be found. He finally calls Tacoma's largest hotel, the Winthrop. The clerk tells him that there is a room already reserved for him for that specific night. This confounds Arnold because he told no one but his wife that he was leaving Boise that day, and the reservation has been made for him by persons unknown. Later that night Harold Dahl tells Arnold his story. They both then drive to Dahl's secretary's house to see the metal fragments Dahl says fell from a flying saucer, after which Arnold returns to the hotel for the night.

Notes on this day: Arnold actually arrived on the next day, Wednesday, July 30, 1947. He mentions nothing about the curious room reservation in his August 19, 1947 statement to the FBI, and a version of the story first appears in his article for Fate magazine -- starting his tale off with an air of mystery, although rather than a reservation in his name Arnold only says that the hotel "seemed to be expecting me". In both his Fate magazine article and in The Coming of the Saucers Arnold says that when he first phoned Dahl that Dahl was resistant to meeting with him and that Arnold spent considerable time talking Dahl into coming to see him at the hotel. But Arnold tells the FBI, "that DAHL insisted on coming to the room immediately". The statement to the FBI does say that after Dahl arrives he tries to discourage Arnold from pursuing the story because Dahl has had such bad luck since, which is the same in both the Fate magazine article and in The Coming of the Saucers. However Arnold leaves out of both his written accounts that he told Dahl "that he understood that DAHL had told the press about the disc fragments, stating there was nothing to the story and that it was a phoney". Arnold says that Dahl "immediately replied that his story was not false or phoney, but that what he had seen and what had happened to him was so unusual and fantastic that he wanted to forget about the disc fragments". Interestingly, Arnold also leaves out of his Fate magazine account any mention of Raymond Palmer, saying only "I had received information" about Dahl's story, and leaving the impression that it had been Arnold's idea to go to Tacoma and investigate.

WENESDAY, JULY 30, 1947 -- Arnold is awakened at 9:30 in the morning when Crisman and Dahl come up to the room. Crisman tells Arnold his story of seeing a disk while investigating Dahl's story the day after Dahl's sighting. The three go out to lunch, and Arnold asks Crisman and Dahl if it's okay to call Capt. Smith in. Crisman and Dahl approve. Arnold calls Smith and then flies to Seattle, bringing Smith back to Tacoma, arriving "about three o'clock". Crisman meets them and drives them back to the hotel, drops them off, and then goes to fetch Dahl. Ninety minutes later Crisman and Dahl show up at Arnold's room. For the next hour and a half Smith proceeds with "a cross examination which covered every possible phase of everybody's relationship and experiences up to the present date". After hearing the stories of Dahl and Crisman, Smith says he wants "to stay a few days with me to see how everything came out". Dahl goes home for supper while Crisman drives Smith to pick up Smith's own car in Seattle. Smith gets back about 7:30 and he and Arnold go to dinner at a cafe. They return to the hotel and Crisman and Dahl return to Arnold's room just after, and invite Arnold and Smith to breakfast the next morning and then leave at about 10:00 p.m. Smith notices Arnold's pistol kept under Arnold's pillow and offers to buy it from Arnold. Also, Smith and Arnold discuss the possibility that Crisman and Dahl are involved in some Soviet plot to find out what Arnold and Smith know about flying saucers. Smith and Arnold go to bed but almost immediately the phone rings. It is United Press reporter Ted Morello saying that a "crackpot has been phoning us here, telling us verbatim what has been going on in your hotel room for the last day". Arnold says Morello also "quoted things that had been said in the room that evening when neither Dahl or Crisman were present". According to Arnold they have already been badgered that day by Paul Lantz (who Arnold calls Paul Lance) of the Tacoma Times, first meeting them in the lobby and then coming "up to our room several times that afternoon attempting to get a story".

Notes on this day: This was the day Arnold actually arrived, and some small part of what he relates actually occurs the next day, July 31, 1947. However, the story of Smith and Arnold going to dinner after Smith's return from Seattle is imaginary, as Smith didn't arrive until the next day and when he returned from picking up his car in Seattle he found Capt. Davidson and Lt. Brown were already in Arnold's room. For the same reason the story of Crisman and Dahl returning that night and inviting them to breakfast the next day, as well as the story of the pistol and the possible Soviet plot are equally figmental. In addition, Ted Morello's statement to the FBI gives late Friday, August 1, as the time when he received his first call -- two days later than Morello's alleged first call to Arnold's room the night of July 30th -- and that call concerned the identities of the men who had been killed in the crash (Capt. Davidson and Lt. Brown), not the activities and conversations which had been taking place in Arnold's room. Equally apparent, if Arnold didn't actually arrive until dusk of July 30th, then he couldn't have been badgered in the afternoon by reporter Paul Lantz. In his statement to the FBI Arnold did say that after returning from Dahl's house "he received a call from the press upon returning to his hotel room, and that the press wanted to know about the flying disc fragments, and he told them that he was not talking until he had proved it". But Arnold does not provide the name of the caller in his statement, and the subject of the call is far different than that Arnold claims was said by Morello.

THURSDAY, JULY 31, 1947 -- Arnold and Smith are awakened by the arrival of Crisman and Dahl whose "arms were loaded with heavy lava rock fragments" as well as "a number of pieces of the white metal". As Smith and Arnold inspect the pieces Crisman tells them that "that the men from their crews were down at the cafe waiting for us for breakfast". All four go to the cafe, where Arnold is impressed that the men at the cafe "seemed to be very friendly and appeared to have every confidence in their superior officers". After breakfast the four return to Arnold's hotel room where Arnold and Smith inspect the metal. Arnold and Smith ask to see the pictures but instead Crisman "described what the pictures looked like but said he was unable to locate them that morning before coming to the hotel". Arnold then announces he thinks it would be a good idea to bring in Capt. Davidson and Lt. Brown, and Smith plays along in mock seriousness. Dahl says he doesn't want to meet with the military intelligence officers and Smith tells him he doesn't have to be there. Arnold calls Lt. Brown and says he "made it plain that neither Captain Smith nor I felt fully capable of judging whether we were being made the victims of some hoax or whether these fellows' story was really true". But he does tell Brown that "they offered some metal as proof of their story and that it looked like pieces of lava rock to me". The four men then sit around and talk for "little over an hour". During that time Ted Morello calls and tells Arnold "that this crackpot character had been phoning him from a pay telephone, limiting his conversations to about fifteen or twenty seconds" and that "it was the same voice that had been calling him so often the last two days". Morello also says he "had him on the other line and asked us to count noses there in the room". Since all four were in the room when Morello called "it discounted the possibility that the phone calls were being made by either Dahl or Crisman". Directly following this Paul Lantz calls and is rebuffed by Capt. Smith. Lantz then comes to the room whereupon Smith frisks him and then "ushered him out into the hallway". Dahl leaves. Smith and Crisman step out of the room which Arnold believes "was for a private conversation". Lt. Brown calls from the lobby and then he and Capt. Davidson come up to the room. Capt. Davidson draws Arnold a sketch of a flying disk photographed in Arizona. Smith and Crisman return and then for "the next two and a half hours Fred L. Crisman related Harold Dahl's story". Davidson and Brown spend some time inspecting the metal fragments, then dinner is ordered up into the room. During dinner Arnold and Smith "discussed all the phases of this peculiar business -- the mysterious telephone informant, Ted Morello, Paul Lance, and the persistency of the press in trying to get a story from us". Crisman announces he is going home to "get a box of the fragments and would bring them down immediately so they could take them back to Hamilton Field". Brown and Davidson suddenly lose interest and prepare to leave. While waiting downstairs for their military car to arrive Crisman pulls up and retrieves a cereal box containing fragments. Brown and Davidson leave. Crisman goes out with Arnold and Smith for donuts, then leaves for home. Arnold and Smith return to the room. Ted Morello calls "telling us what this mysterious telephone informant had told him had taken place in our room". Smith and Arnold talk together for a little while after the call, and then presumably go to bed.

Notes on this day: Crisman and Dahl did arrive in Arnold's room that morning, but as related earlier, Smith didn't arrive until late that afternoon (both Arnold and Smith place the time as 4:00 p.m. in their statements to the FBI). Nor was there a breakfast at a cafe with "men from their crews" even without Smith, as Arnold's article for Fate magazine not only makes no mention of going out but says instead "I ordered breakfast up to the room and we sat around discussing this thing pro and con". Equally obvious as being fictional is Arnold's portrayal of the four men returning to the room and Arnold then announcing in the presence of Smith that he was calling in Capt. Davidson and Lt. Brown, as Arnold first told Crisman and Dahl what he was going to do and then called Lt. Brown before calling Capt. Smith. Likewise the call from Ted Morello is a fabrication as Morello didn't receive his first call until 5:30 p.m. the next day, August 1, 1947, and the tale that Morello asked Arnold to "count noses" because he had the anonymous caller on the other line is pure invention, as is the conclusion that "it discounted the possibility that the phone calls were being made by either Dahl or Crisman". According to statements given to the FBI, reporter Paul Lantz received one call at 11:30 a.m. for reporter Burt McMurtie, who was not in at the time. This was the first call from the anonymous caller, and the only one for Thursday, July 31, 1947 (more on these calls a little later). Also according to the statements given to the FBI, McMurtie later called Arnold's room but was rebuffed by Arnold. The encounters described with reporter Paul Lantz are also illusory events of that day as imagined by Arnold, which is further supported by the absence of any mention of reporters whatsoever in the statement given by Capt. Smith to the FBI describing this day as well as in his sworn affidavit -- both of which match the statements given to the FBI by Paul Lantz and Ted Morello concerning the calls of the anonymous informant. For the same reasons Arnold's assertion that as part of the discussion with Capt. Davidson and Lt. Brown he had told them of "the mysterious telephone informant, Ted Morello, Paul Lance, and the persistency of the press in trying to get a story from us" is untrue. Arnold did tell a variation of this story in his article for Fate magazine, saying, "All during the conference we had been bothered by the United Press and Paul Lance of the Tacoma Times telling us what some mysterious telephone informant was telling them". Arnold had placed this in his account for Fate magazine directly following his description of the meeting with Lt. Brown and Capt. Davidson, yet the assertion that Morello and Lantz had been calling at the time Davidson and Brown were present is missing from the later account given in The Coming of the Saucers, as well as from all statements given to the FBI. Likewise the assertion that Morello called Arnold's room at the end of the night -- which would have been sometime after 1:00 a.m. -- does not fit with any of the statements given to the FBI, and in any case predates Morello's first call from the anonymous informant the next day at 5:30 p.m. Finally, in his Fate magazine article, Arnold gives a different version of what he told Lt. Brown over the phone, saying that he told Brown that "I had some fragments of what I thought was a flying disk" and that "I have enough evidence, in my own mind, to give real credence to what I ran into up here in Tacoma".

FRIDAY, AUGUST 1, 1947 -- Crisman calls in the morning and tells Arnold of the crash of the B-25. Smith calls McChord Field to verify. Then either Arnold or Smith call Ted Morello at United Press, then leave to meet him. Just as they're leaving Crisman comes to the room. Arnold calls Raymond Palmer and Crisman asks to talk to him as well. Arnold writes, "later Raymond Palmer told me that he recognized Crisman's voice", adding "that it was the same voice that had called him long distance on other occasions from various parts of the county". Arnold tells Crisman that he and Smith are "going over to United Press where Ted Morello had invited us to hear a recorded interview" which had been "taken in the hospital where one of the two men who parachuted out of the B-25 was recuperating from a broken leg he had suffered in his fall". Before leaving they make arrangements for Crisman take them out to Maury Island later that day. Arnold and Smith go to Ted Morello's office where he plays them a recorded interview of Sgt. Taff, who relays the story of being in the air after parachuting and watching for "nine to eleven minutes" as the plane flies on. Morello tells Arnold and Smith that he is no longer interested in a story, but that the "whole business had gotten so far out of hand, he said, that he was now only interested in our personal safety." Arnold and Smith leave and go to meet Crisman at the docks. Crisman tells them the boat needs repair and is not ready to go to Maury Island. Arnold asks Crisman about seeing the pictures which had been taken of the flying saucers, but Crisman says he can't find them and may have left them at his mountain cabin. Smith and Arnold inspect the boat for damage, and see some minor repair. Crisman says he will call them later when the boat's engine is repaired. Arnold writes "that was the last time I ever saw Fred Crisman". Arnold and Smith go to lunch and then return to the hotel, where they meet Paul Lantz in the lobby "briefly". When they get back to the room they get a call from Ted Morello, who says he has received another anonymous call claiming "that Captain Smith would be called Tuesday, August fifth, to Wright-Patterson Field" and "that Kenneth Arnold's plane had been shot at while flying over Washington and Oregon on numerous occasions and that Captain Smith's airliner had also been shot at over Montana". He also tells them that "the B-25 bomber from Hamilton Field had been shot down by a 20mm. cannon" and that a "recent crash at LaGuardia Field, New York was caused by sabotage" and that "the passenger transport that crashed carrying singer Grace Moore to her death in Copenhagen, Denmark, had similarly been sabotaged". Morello then tells them "that he would like to see us that evening if we would be kind enough to come over to the pressroom". Arnold goes downstairs to buy cigarettes and sees a story in the Tacoma Times written by Paul Lantz about the anonymous informant identifying Capt. Davidson and Lt. Brown and their reason for being in Tacoma, along with claims that their plane had been shot down. Arnold takes the paper to Capt. Smith, and they call around trying to find Crisman and Dahl. They finally locate Dahl, who comes to the room and tells them "that Crisman had left a message saying he was going to have to be gone for a few days". Immediately after this Ted Morello calls "and told us that the mysterious telephone informant had just notified him that Fred L. Crisman had boarded an Army bomber that afternoon and was now being flown to Alaska". Dahl leaves with the promise to remain available, and Arnold and Smith go to dinner, and then go to see Ted Morello again. Ted Morello tells them that Davidson and Brown's B-25 had been "under military armed guard every minute it was at the field". He then warns them to "get out of this town until whatever it is blows over". Arnold and Smith leave feeling "we had found a real friend in Ted Morello". They return to the hotel and Dave Johnson of the Idaho Statesman calls seeking their story about the most recent events. Smith confirms the names of Davidson and Brown for him. Arnold and Smith then go "to bed feeling pretty clammy and cold inside".

Notes on this day: The purported call in the morning to reporter Ted Morello as well as the invitation from Morello to his office to hear the recorded interview did not take place in any of the accounts given to the FBI nor in Arnold's article for Fate magazine. Nor would it have made sense as Morello was not in touch with Smith or Arnold until after he received his first call from the anonymous caller at 5:30 p.m. that afternoon. The idea that on the morning of the crash Morello would have in his possession a taped interview with Sgt. Taff is highly suspect in any case, as Taff wasn't transferred from the crash site at Kelso to McChord Field until 9:45 that morning and was immediately taken by ambulance to the hospital after which he was interrogated by military authorities investigating the crash. But according to Arnold in The Coming of the Saucers Crisman's call came at 9:30 in the morning, after which Smith calls McChord Field, followed by a call by either Arnold or Smith to Morello, at which time he invites them over to hear the interview. Since Taff would just be reaching the hospital at that time, there could be no interview by Morello to listen to. Further, in his article for Fate magazine Arnold writes, "Friday morning at ten o'clock, we made an arrangement with Fred Crisman to board his patrol and go out to Maury Island to see the fragments", and that he and Smith "discussed it to some extent before we went down to the boat" and that they then "went down to the boat with Fred Crisman" -- though even that version does not reflect what actually occurred (see the recounting in the previous section for the actual events of Friday, August 1, 1947). Nor could a call come from Ted Morello that afternoon about Capt. Smith's being called to Wright Field and such as Ted Morello did not receive that call until the next day, Saturday, August 2, 1947, at 5:30 p.m. Likewise the story about first Dahl and then Morello telling Arnold that Crisman was gone did not happen on that day as both Dahl and Crisman were with Arnold and Smith from the early morning until just before dinner. Arnold did not see the article by reporter Paul Lantz identifying Davidson and Brown as victims and of the anonymous caller's claim of sabotage as it was not published until the next day, Saturday, August 2, 1947. There was no visit to reporter Ted Morello that evening. Morello did call the room after receiving his first (at 5:30) and second (at 6:45) calls from the anonymous caller that evening, but Smith told the FBI that he "spoke to him on the telephone but refused to give out any information". The call from reporter Dave Johnson of the Idaho Statesman did not happen until the next day. Unmentioned by Arnold in either of his accounts is that Smith talked with reporter Paul Lantz that night, as recounted in the previous section for the actual events of Friday, August 1, 1947.

SATURDAY, AUGUST 2, 1947 -- Arnold writes, "All we did the next day, Saturday, August 2 was hang around the room, going out only to eat, anticipating a call every minute from either McChord or Hamilton Field". He then states that Dahl dropped by briefly in the afternoon "not having very much to say". As Dahl leaves he invites them to breakfast the next day. Except for Dahl's visit, "we did absolutely nothing but wait the rest of the day".

Notes on this day: This is the day that, after breakfast with Dahl and Crisman, Smith and Arnold actually went out to the docks for a trip to Maury Island only to be told the boat needed repair. They then returned to the hotel where Smith phoned reporter Paul Lantz and arranged for he and Arnold to meet Lantz at a coffee shop for lunch, where they discussed the anonymous caller (this lunch with Paul Lantz goes unmentioned by Arnold in both of his accounts). This was also the day that Ted Morello was called at 5:30 p.m. by the anonymous caller saying that Capt. Smith would be called to Wright Field and that "one of the men" involved "was taken to Alaska that day", with Paul Lantz later contacting Smith to relay what Morello had been told. Smith and Arnold did track down Harold Dahl at a theater which Arnold claimed had happened the day before, and Arnold's assertion that "with people disappearing and getting killed Harold Dahl had been calmly sitting in a movie theater all afternoon" on Friday -- just hours after the deaths of Davidson and Brown -- did not take place as claimed and actually occurred some time after 8:30 p.m. the next day. This was the same night that Smith and Arnold went to see Ted Morello, where Smith says "they read the latest press releases and had a discussion with Morello regarding the anonymous phone calls". This was the first time either Smith or Arnold met with Morello, and would be where all the interactions described by Arnold -- as far as they might be true -- would have occurred.

SUNDAY, AUGUST 3, 1947 -- At 9:00 a.m. Arnold and Smith meet Harold Dahl and his secretary at a cafe for breakfast. Smith suddenly rises and goes to a pay phone, then comes back and tells Arnold he's off to someplace he won't name and will return to the hotel by 12 noon. Smith also tells Arnold to lock himself in his room while Smith is away. Arnold is so puzzled by Smith's action at the cafe that he doesn't "even recall whether Dahl and his secretary dropped me off or whether Captain Smith dropped me off en route to wherever he was going". Arnold waits in his room, growing increasingly more frantic as hours tick by. Finally at 2:00 p.m. Smith shows up with Major Sander "of S-2 Army Intelligence of McChord Field". Smith tells Arnold to tell the story of the last few days to Sander, which Arnold does. Sander tells them that they have been victims of a hoax, but insists on gathering all the fragments left by Dahl and Crisman in Arnold's room. Sander then drives them to a nearby smelter dump to show them similar type metal. Arnold says it looks the same but has a different feel in the hand than Dahl's fragments. After Sander drops them off back at the hotel, Arnold considers the visit, concluding "it was odd how Major Sander knew just the right side road to take out at the smelter and how he stopped only where there were pieces of slag that closely resembled the pieces of stuff we had" and further notes "there were dumps all around and yet he proceeded into the smelter grounds quite a long way and made a little turn before stopping and letting us out". Arnold "wished we had hidden a few of the fragments". Arnold and Smith pack and leave for the airport but Arnold insists on stopping at Dahl's secretary's house first to say goodbye to Dahl, sure he would be there because "Harold had mentioned he was going to be working all day on some book work at his secretary's house". Arnold gives Smith directions to the secretary's house as they are en route. Arnold, who has memorized many small details of the house from his visit on his first night, is shocked to find the secretary's house empty, and full of cobwebs. Smith then takes Arnold to the airport, and then the two men part.

Notes on this day: Arnold and Smith do not "meet" Dahl and his secretary at the cafe, but rather Dahl first picks up Arnold and Smith then drives them out to pick up the secretary at her home, driving back out again after breakfast with Arnold and Smith still in Dahl's car to drop her back at her house, where Dahl retrieves a typewriter. Smith does call Major Sander from the cafe but does not leave the cafe to meet him as he has been driven there by Dahl, instead making arrangements to meet Major Sander back at the hotel after he and Arnold return. Sander is not a member of "S-2 Army Intelligence" but rather is the public information officer at McChord Field. The alleged visit to the mysteriously abandoned secretary's house in the afternoon goes unmentioned by both Smith and Arnold in their individual statements to the FBI, and is missing as well from Arnold's account in Fate magazine. "Samples" of the fragments sent to Raymond Palmer by Crisman and Dahl were analyzed, and their chemical composition was published as an addendum to Arnold's Fate magazine article, stating "nothing of an unusual nature exists in this combination of metals except the unusually high quantity of Calcium". The article also states "Calcium oxidizes when heated, and its presence in high-constituent quantity in a fused metal which has been subjected to extreme heat is hard to explain". Intriguingly, the analysis of the metal appears nowhere in The Coming of the Saucers, though the intervening years would have provided ample time for further analysis and research on this "key" bit of evidence.


Above: Signatures of Fred Crisman and Harold Dahl in their statement to the FBI.

ON AUGUST 7, 1947 Fred Crisman and Harold Dahl would give their statements on the events at Tacoma to the FBI...

August 7, 1947

HAROLD A. DAHL and FRED CRISMAN make the following foluntary [sic] statement to SAC [Blacked Out] of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

In the early part of June 1947 we picked up some strange rock formations from a gravel pit on Maury Island, Washington. We sent a box (cigar) of these fragments to RAY PALMER of Venture Magazine at Evanston Illinois to have it analyzed.

Later PALMER wrote and asked for additional samples stating that he had failed to have them analyzed.

Around the later part of June a few days after the first disc stories started PALMER contacted us by phone. He told us not to tell the newspapers about the fragments and he would pay for an exclusive story if the fragments could be from a flying disc.

One of us told him the fragments could have been from a flying disc.

Just after our phone conversation HAROLD DAHL wrote a letter to RAY PALMER setting out some notes etc. regarding the fragments and indicating they could have come from flying discs.

The next thing we heard was about the first of July when we got a Trans Ocean Press telegram from Chicago asking about these flying disc fragments. We told them to forget the entire matter.

The next we heard of these fragments was when we were called by KENNETH ARNOLD to meet with him in the Winthrop Hotel on July 31, 1947.

We told him exactly how we had found the fragments and had forwarded them to PALMER to be analyzed.

The above is the entire and true story as regards our connection with the flying disc stories et cetera. Which originated over the ore samples which we sent to be analyzed.

Ironically, the statement of Crisman and Dahl probably come as close to the truth of the heart of the "Maury Island Mystery" as there is to be found. Palmer and Crisman undoubtedly knew each other, else why would Crisman contact Palmer in the first place? For it had been Crisman who coordinated the contact with Palmer, with Arnold saying in his August 19, 1947 statement to the FBI that on the first night in Tacoma that Dahl told him "that [CRISMAN], his superior officer, had told him to send the fragments to [RAYMOND PALMER] at Chicago; that [PALMER] would analyze the specimens free of charge" -- which Crisman could only know beforehand by already being in contact with Palmer on the matter. And the first news reports of the alleged incident came out of Chicago -- where Palmer was based -- in early July, including the statement that "a piece of rocklike metal, alleged to have dropped from one of the 'Flying Saucers' arrived yesterday for analysis by metallurgists of Chicago University". Palmer himself stated that he had been the one to receive the "samples" in one of his first letters to Arnold. No wonder then, as Arnold would write in The Coming of the Saucers, "later Raymond Palmer told me that he recognized Crisman's voice". And if the "samples" were indeed first sent to Palmer in early June, then they may have been intended to play a part in Palmer's pursuit of tales of deros and teros, only to be repurposed when the flying disc mystery hit the papers in late June.

FBI Report

Above: August 19, 1947, FBI report on calls by the anonymous caller to reporters Paul Lantz and Ted Morello.

THE IDENTITY OF THE anonymous caller who made five calls over three days to two different reporters remains a matter of guesswork, but the timing and the topics of each call may give some clue -- once the fiction of a multitude of calls relating private conversations in detail is set aside.

The first call came on July 31, 1947, and was taken by reporter Paul Lantz. From a report on the statement given by Lantz to the FBI...

LANTZ stated that on Thursday, July 31, at approximately 11:30 A.M. he received an anonymous phone call in which the caller stated that KENNETH ARNOLD and Army Intelligence officers were meeting in room 502 of the Winthrop Hotel to check on the flying disc story from which fragments were obtained on Maury island.

This would have been just around the time that Kenneth Arnold had informed Dahl and Crisman that he was going to call first Davidson and Brown of military intelligence, and then Capt. E.J. Smith of United Airlines. The calls afterwards as described by Arnold were complex and lengthy, and certainly Dahl -- or as is likely, Crisman -- could have slipped away to make a very brief call from the hotel pay phone, the motivation most certainly being to seek publicity about military interest in the alleged fragments from a flying saucer. Though Capt. Davidson and Lt. Brown weren't to arrive until late that afternoon, the call to Lantz was extremely brief and it may have sounded to him as if the military officers were already there, or the FBI report may have mangled what Lantz said about the call.

The second call, on Friday, August 1, at 11 a.m., was again taken by Paul Lantz. This was the morning of the crash of the B-25, and the caller informed Lantz "that at that moment there was a big meeting in progress in ARNOLD's room, 502, in the Winthrop Hotel; that the B-25 which crashed that morning in Kelso was carrying flying disc fragments from California and that McChord Field officials had stated the plane was sabotaged or shot down".

This would have been at the time that Dahl and Crisman were present while Arnold and Smith were making various calls about the situation, followed by the four going to lunch, and again Dahl -- or as is likely, Crisman -- could have slipped away to make a very brief call from a pay phone.

The explanation for the third call, on Friday, August 1, at 5:30 p.m. to reporter Ted Morello may possibly be related to the fact that earlier that afternoon Lantz had called Kenneth Arnold to read him over the phone Lantz's story about the anonymous caller, during which he "stated that he talked to TED MORELLO, the United Press Wireman, Tacoma, who advised that the story sounded fantastic". Dahl and Crisman were still with Arnold and Smith at the time of Lantz's call, and it may or may not be coincidence that soon after Ted Morello received his first call from the anonymous caller, telling Morello the names of Capt. Davidson and Lt. Brown -- which had yet to be released to the public -- and that they were carrying fragments which were "top secret material".

The fourth call was again to Morello just 75 minutes later, on Friday, August 1 at 6:45 p.m., with the anonymous caller saying the B-25 had definitely been shot down and that if Morello should contact "Army Intelligence A-2, the man in charge would not deny it". Morello thought the name given was Col. Guys, but found out "it was Colonel GREGG who was in charge of Army Intelligence A-2". This then would have been the same Col. Gregg who had called Arnold's room earlier the same day while Dahl and Crisman were present, asking all four to "submit their addresses to Hamilton Field for convenience of any Army investigation of the incident which may be forthcoming".

The fifth and final call on Saturday, August 2, 1947 at 5:30 p.m., again to Morello, "stated that one of the men who had been conferring with Captain SMITH and KENNETH ARNOLD was taken to Alaska that day." Also that "the B-25 was shot down from the air with a 20 m.m. cannon; that the Marine plane found recently on Mt. Rainier had also been shot down; that Captain SMITH would be taken to Wright Field Tuesday morning and that a United Airlines pilot by the name of 'MORGAN' flew with Captain SMITH when they were shot at over Montana". The caller then asked Morello if all the claims the caller had made earlier had been sent as a story on the UP wire, and when told yes the caller said "Good, we want this to get back to New Jersey". The caller then said he would be in San Francisco until Tuesday.

This call was made when Dahl and Crisman were apart from Arnold and Smith. By this time the Army had released the names of Capt. Davidson and Lt. Brown as well as released statements on why they were in Tacoma, which was at the request of Arnold. The story was losing steam and this call seems focused on keeping it going. That Crisman would go missing -- after giving himself a mysterious alibi -- is the best indication that it was Crisman who placed all five calls.

The further evidence for the fact that it was Crisman and not Dahl making the calls is that Dahl was all along the reluctant participant, seemingly acting at the direction of Crisman. And when Dahl found out that military intelligence was about to become involved, he absented himself and refused to meet with them, while Crisman eagerly relayed Dahl's story to them.

And finally, the biggest indicator is that the anonymous caller gave only details -- when they were true -- that Crisman had access to. Or in other words, there was no valid information that lay outside Crisman's personal knowledge. And after Crisman absented himself from the scene, the calls came to an abrupt end.

Which leaves only the question of deciding whether Dahl and Crisman actually experienced what they claimed -- a task made simple when the story they told is viewed through a slightly different lens, as follows...

On June 21, 1947 Harold Dahl, Dahl's son and two crewmen spy six immense aircraft -- each of them as wide as a 10-story building is high. The aircraft are donut shaped with portholes on the outside and a continuous view window ringing the interior. The aircraft are silent yet capable of delicate maneuvers encompassing both horizontal and vertical flight. There are no propellers or jet engines evident. Their exteriors are brightly polished metal, with no identifying insignia. One of them drops 20 tons of metal, striking and damaging Dahl's boat, injuring his son, and killing his dog.

This all occurs four days before Kenneth Arnold's flying saucer story hits the papers. Nothing like the six gigantic flying machines has ever been seen in the sky by anyone. And yet Harold Dahl makes no attempt to contact police or sheriffs to report the fantastic thing he has experienced, resulting in injury to his son and damage to his craft. Nor does Dahl contact maritime authorities to report this new and lethal danger to boats on the water. Nor does Dahl contact military authorities to report unmarked gigantic aircraft of a type never seen before, dropping a bombardment of metal onto American shores. Instead, Dahl determines the wisest course of action is to send the story along with a cigar box of samples to the editor in chief of Amazing Stories.

The next day Fred Crisman goes out to the island and sees not only the metal but another of the gigantic craft circling above. This occurs three days before Kenneth Arnold's flying saucer story hits the papers. And yet Crisman makes no attempt to contact police or sheriffs to report the fantastic thing he has experienced. Nor does Crisman -- Dahl's "superior officer" -- contact maritime authorities to report this new and lethal danger to boats on the water. Nor does Crisman -- a former military pilot -- contact military authorities to report unmarked gigantic aircraft of a type never seen before, dropping a bombardment of metal onto American shores. Instead, Crisman determines the wisest course of action is to send the story along with a cigar box of samples to the editor in chief of Amazing Stories.

Nor, do the two alleged crewmen -- never named by Dahl or Crisman -- make any such reports to the authorities. And Arnold, who has been specifically hired to investigate the story, not only never asks to meet with them, but doesn't even bother to learn their names.

With that in mind, the only mystery really remaining about the events at Tacoma is why Arnold would later write of events, calls and conversations that never happened, not only perpetuating but building upon the hoax, rather than choosing to expose it...

...or at the very least to tell it honesty, letting others make of it what they may.

Saucer Shapes

Above: Depictions of Arnold's first saucer sighting. Left, as given in his July, 1947 report to Wright Field. Middle, as portrayed for his Spring, 1948 Fate magazine article. Right, as illustrated in his self-published pamphlet in 1950, titled "The Flying Saucer As I Saw It". Arnold is shown with the picture in a 1966 Associated Press wire photo which included the statement "Arnold said pulsating light came from the dark spot in the center".

AFTER THE EVENTS at Tacoma Kenneth Arnold mostly faded from public view, his name revived in news accounts of flying disc reports from time to time as historical background, but with his further activities going largely unnoticed.

But amongst those stories were glimpses of Arnold's evolving view. From the April 10, 1950 edition of the Lowell, Massachusetts Sun...

Kenneth Arnold, the private pilot who made the first report of flying saucers, said today he's convinced there is a definite link between them and the mysterious submarines reported off the U.S. west coast.

In fact, the Boise businessman wouldn't be surprised if they turned out to be one and the same thing.

He agrees with those who think the strange aircraft might be space ships from another planet. And he doesn't scoff at reports that "little men" have fled from alleged crackups of flying saucers in Mexico and Southern California.

"Who am I to say that no such men exist?" says Arnold. "My mind is always open to anything. I haven't seen any of the tiny men myself. but I have letters from persons who have seen them. And they're serious persons, too."

And in 1952 -- the same year as The Coming of the Saucers -- Arnold would briefly make news when he announced an entirely different view of the nature of the flying saucers. From the August 8, 1952 nationally syndicated Assignment America column by Inez Robb...

Mankind has nothing to fear from the flying saucer but fear itself, in the calm opinion of the man who first spotted and christened these strange phenomena five years ago.

Kenneth Arnold, 37, veteran bush pilot, successful businessman and solid citizen of Boise who first spotted a formation of nine saucers while flying his own high-altitude CAA airplane near Mount Rainier on June 24, 1947, is convinced that they are "a living, thinking creature" that inhabits the stratosphere "but they are no menace" says this fire control engineer, who is a highly respected citizen of this community.

But that same 1952 column included assertions by Arnold that can only give pause today...

"I have interviewed more than 5,000 who have seen flying saucers or who have had some solid evidence to present," he said, as we met over coffee at the Owyhee Hotel. "I have made tape recordings of conversations with 200 airlines pilots describing their experiences with flying saucers, and I have taken 150 feet of 18 millimeter film in color all showing flying saucers."

That same article also included the claim -- though not a direct quote -- that Arnold "had worked extensively with military intelligence since he spotted the first flying saucers in June 1947".

In June, 1956 Arnold would have another plane crash, this time in New Mexico and with his wife in the plane, "after their plane apparently was caught in a whirlwind". In 1961, he announced his candidacy for governor of Idaho on the Republican ticket to replace the retiring then-governor, declaring he was "opposed to a state sales tax, trading stamps, legalized gambling and the wilderness bill". When two days later the then-governor decided to run for re-election, Arnold switched to a race to become the Republican nominee for Lt. Governor of Idaho but was not elected. In 1966 he would make another unsuccessful try for political office, this time for Idaho's first congressional district seat. In 1967 Arnold's story would be retold under the title of The Man Who Started It All in the Look magazine special publication Flying Saucers, quoting Arnold's view on the nature of UFOs...

"The impression I have received after observing these strange objects a second time was that they were something alive rather than machines -- a living organism of some type that apparently has the ability to change its density similar to fish that are found in our oceans without losing their apparent identity."

Arnold would recede even further from public attention over the coming 10 years. Then, in 1977, he was keynote speaker at the "first" International UFO Congress, held in Chicago and organized by Fate magazine. As part of that speech Arnold would relate the following story...

I remember one particular case that was related to me. It happened to a young family in Tacoma, Washington. Their twelve-year old boy turned up missing, and after a very extensive search they found him in Lusk, Wyoming. They didn't have relatives there and the boy, when he was found, didn't know how he got there. It was a completely baffling case.

Why Arnold would connect that story to "flying saucers" is not self-apparent -- at least until his August, 1947 statement to the FBI is recalled, concerning what Arnold had been told by Dahl about Dahl's 15-year old son...

[DAHL] said that his boy had been missed one morning and had been found at Lust, Montana, waiting on tables in a cafe; that he did not know how he had got there and that too many things were happening.

Even 25 years after the events at Tacoma, it seems, Arnold had not lost his talent for mythologizing ordinary happenings.

Arnold Callair

Above: Undated photo of Kenneth Arnold in his Callair plane.

KENNETH ARNOLD DIED at the age of 68 on January 16, 1984 in the state of Washington.

Seven years earlier he had given the last of his known interviews to researcher Bob Pratt, intimating dark happenings behind the crash of the Marine transport which had brought his first sighting. Of Maury Island and the deaths of Captain Davidson and Lieutenant Brown, Arnold gave a rambling and sometimes incoherent statement...

How all (these) psychological things happen is just a complete, baffling puzzle to anyone because things happen. On the Maury Island incident, I think both (Captain) Smith and myself just knew there wasn’t technical equipment that could read our minds. Or we hoped the hell there wasn’t. It was a pretty shocking experience and neither Smith nor I know any more about it. And from our experience with the military in that particular affair, to have it called a complete hoax was ridiculous. Because if it was, somebody went to a hell of a lot of trouble to try to scare the hell out of us, and it would have taken monumental means to not become detected in some way because it had the whole community up there baffled.

(In) my pamphlet – I named it "The Flying Saucer As I saw It" and I published that in 1950 – I have pictures of everybody involved in the crash on Mount Rainier that was given out by the forest search and rescue and I have photostatic letters of (Lieutenant) Frank M. Brown as to what happened their crash, what the flight engineer said about the plane, when he left the plane he saw something lift off the top of it and he said he thought probably it was Lieutenant Brown or Captain Davidson, but he said he found out when he got on the ground – he had dropped 11,000 feet in a chute – he heard the crash and then he discovered the next morning in Kelso that both of the people that were left on the plane were killed. He couldn’t understand what this was that came off the top of the plane as he left the plane. They (the flight engineer and the other crewman who survived) were forced out by Captain Davidson and Lieutenant Brown, and both Davidson and Brown had on their harnesses but they didn’t have their chutes on when they were found.

But there were no dark happenings behind the crash of the Marine transport which had led to Arnold's first taste of fame, just the tragic tale of a badly off-course plane in the midst of a brutal Pacific Northwest storm smashing into the side of a mountain. And the later "incident" at Maury Island was not the result of a weird encounter with the unknown covered up by conspiracy, merely an obvious hoax turned deadly.

Nor was there any mystery to the actions of Captain Davidson and Lieutenant Brown, who in the best tradition of command had first made sure the lower-ranking men below them parachuted to safety, and then simply run out of time before they could escape their horrifying fate. And that Captain Davidson and Lieutenant Brown acted bravely and selflessly in that instance, and that they showed complete professionalism and courtesy in all their interviews of flying disc witnesses before they died, makes that particular disservice to their memory all the more unsavory.

And if anything can be said to be bona fide about the story of Kenneth Arnold, that much at least is positively true.

go to comments on this entry


1. The title of this series is taken from two statements made by Kenneth Arnold -- once to the press and once to the military -- stating that his story was "positively true".

2. The complete color comic book version of the Maury Island incident, one page of which is included in greyscale as a graphic in this post, can be found at The Wonderful World of Stupid.

3. Bob Pratt's complete interview with Arnold can be found at MUFON.

4. The supporting documents for this series are as follows:

Report by FBI Agent Jack Wilcox, August 19, 1947, with blackouts (larger type).

Report by FBI Agent Jack Wilcox, August 19, 1947, no blackouts (smaller type).

August 8, 1947 Affidavit of E.J. Smith, with blackouts.

August 27, 1947 FBI Report with Arnold Statement, with blackouts.

Raymond Palmer Letters To Kenneth Arnold, with blackouts.

August 7, 1947 Signed Statement of Dahl and Crisman, with blackouts.

Accident Report on B-25 Crash of Davidson and Brown, no blackouts.


The Arrival

Whether you need some serious styling for your walls at home or work or are on the lookout to give someone a special gift they'll treasure forever, you support the work of Saturday Night Uforia whenever you shop for great posters from from any link at this site -- any, each, and every time you start your shopping from here. You still get the same great deal as your friends and family, but a little will be sent back our way as a thank you from And you'll have the extra satisfaction of directly supporting the work of Saturday Night Uforia while treating yourself or friends to something special... like any of these great sci-fi movie posters (you can even have them mounted, laminated, or framed). Just click on the pic for a larger version...

Cowboys and Aliens

Apollo 18


Aliens, 1986

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy




Giger's Alien


The X Files

Transformers 2- Revenge of the Fallen


Critters, 1985

War of the Worlds

Transformers 2 - Bumblebee

Terminator Salvation

Star Trek

Men In Black II

Alien vs Predator

2001: A Space Odyssey

The Quiet Earth, 1986

Close Encounters of the Third Kind, 1977


Termination Salvation -X

Independence Day

Men In Black

Alien, Italian Movie Poster, 1979

Blade Runner Japanese Style

Star Wars - Saga Collage

Star Wars- Return Of The Jedi

Star Wars

Forbidden Planet, Robby the Robot

Star Wars- The Empire Strikes Back

Invasion of the Saucer Men, 1957

Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, 1956

The Day The Earth Stood Still, 1951

Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, Swedish Movie Poster, 1956

Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, French Movie Poster, 1956

Teenagers From Outer Space, 1959

Robinson Crusoe on Mars, 1964

2001: A Space Odyssey, 1968

Devil Girl From Mars, 1955

Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, German Movie Poster, 1956

This Island Earth, 1954

Robinson Crusoe on Mars, 1964

Invasion of the Saucer Men, 1957

Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, 1956

The War of the Worlds, 1953

Invasion of the Body Snatchers, 1978

The Day of the Triffids, 1963

The Phantom Planet, 1962

The Day The Earth Stood Still

Invasion of The Body Snatchers, 1956

It Came from Outer Space, 1953

Queen of Outer Space, 1958

2001: A Space Odyssey


Image: Saturday

Image: Night

Image: Uforia

Saturday Night Uforia Copyright 2012 : All Rights Reserved