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the positively
true story of
kenneth arnold


Whinthrop Night

Above: Tacoma, Washington in 1948.

BY LATE JULY 1947 neither businessman Kenneth Arnold nor United Airlines pilot Captain E.J. Smith could be said to be strangers to extremely odd happenings. It had been Arnold who, on June 24, 1947, set off the national flying saucer controversy when he reported sighting nine flying discs near Mt. Rainier in Washington while flying his small private plane. Captain Smith had similarly gained fame when he and his crew reported sighting nine flying discs while piloting an airliner en route from Idaho to Washington, 10 days after Arnold's sighting. But at least those encounters -- though full of mystery -- had occurred from a safe distance while both men were in the air, a familiar realm in which they both felt at ease.

But the bizarre circumstances in which they would find themselves on the ground -- in Tacoma, Washington to be precise -- had both men anxious and bewildered.

Arnold would later write that he had arrived in Tacoma on July 29th, 1947, at the request of publisher Raymond Palmer of Chicago. Palmer had wired Arnold two-hundred dollars to investigate the tale of lumber salvage man Harold Dahl that while on his boat in Puget Sound he and several others had seen six giant flying saucers, with one of them dropping tons of metal onto Maury Island.

Dahl also claimed that some of the falling metal had damaged his boat, and that he had samples of the metal as well as pictures of the craft -- though the pictures only had white spots on them as if exposed to radiation. Backing up Dahl was one Fred Lee Crisman, with both men portraying Crisman as Dahl's "superior officer". Crisman said he had first been suspicious about the damage to the boat, but had personally gone out the next day to Maury Island, found the metal Dahl described, and had even spotted one of the giant flying saucers coming out of a cloud and circling the bay.

Arnold, feeling out of his element, had called Captain Smith -- whom he had first met a few weeks earlier -- to help him investigate. Smith agreed, and Arnold would later write that he flew his own plane on July 30, 1947 to fetch Smith from nearby Seattle. Then back in Tacoma, Smith personally met the men and heard their story, with Smith's interview of Dahl and Crisman taking place in Arnold's room at Tacoma's Winthrop hotel.

Arnold would also write that after that Smith decided he would stay and help with the investigation, and that Crisman drove Smith back to Seattle so that Smith could pick up his own car, while Dahl returned home to have dinner. According to Arnold, the four men met together again in Arnold's room later that night of July 30th, and agreed to meet for breakfast the next morning. Meanwhile, Smith would stay with Arnold in his room at the Winthrop on the night of July 30th.

Also according to Arnold, after Dahl and Crisman left the room on the night of July 30th, Arnold and Smith found themselves uneasy with both the story and the character of the two men -- and even considered the possibility that the whole situation was a setup by Soviet intelligence to find out just what was behind the flying saucer stories. Finally, they both went to bed. Arnold would later write of what happened next...

We had just settled down to go to sleep when the phone rang. It was Ted Morello of United Press. I later found out he was UP's head man in Tacoma with offices in the Tacoma Times Building. I immediately started to hang up on him when he said, "Hold on a minute. Some crackpot has been phoning us here, telling us verbatim what has been going on in your hotel room for the last day."

I told him we would not admit or deny anything. Morello proceeded to tell me, step by step, what we had been doing. I was amazed at the accuracy of what he told me but I didn't let on to Morello that it was true.

We had been bothered several times by a reporter from the Tacoma Times named Paul Lance earlier in the day. He had met us in the lobby and tried to strike up a conversation with us and he came up to our room several times that afternoon attempting to get a story. We had questioned Paul Lance as to how he knew we were there and his suspicion that it had something to do with flying saucers. We had absolutely refused to talk to any reporters and Paul Lance was no exception. Both Smith and I suspected Dahl or Crisman of leaking out the information as to what was going on in our room.

Ted Morello of United Press not only told me but I turned the phone over to Captain Smith. He was equally amazed at what Morello knew, particularly when he quoted things that had been said in the room that evening when neither Dahl or Crisman were present. We thanked Morello for his kindness, told him he was all wet -- which was not true -- and as Smithy set the phone back on the stand we both began to worry.

We were sure someone had a dictaphone planted in our room. We spent the next hour tearing that room apart, from the mattresses to the transoms. It was a corner room and we had a definite advantage. We were five stories up on two sides and with heavy panels between us and the hallway and the adjoining rooms on the west and the south. We could not find any wires or any microphone behind, underneath, or on anything in that room.

I didn't dare say how I felt but Smithy was visibly concerned and disturbed. For the next half hour, before we finally went to sleep, we carried on our conversation in whispers.

Curiously, in an FBI report less than three weeks later, Smith would make no mention of the calls from reporters that evening -- but much more on that, later.

Tacoma 1948

Above: Tacoma, Washington in 1948.

ACCORDING TO ARNOLD, on the morning of July 31, 1947, both he and Smith met with Dahl and Crisman, as agreed...

The next morning, July 31, Captain Smith and I were awakened by Crisman and Dahl. Their arms were loaded with heavy lava rock fragments and Crisman had a number of pieces of the white metal that he said came from the aircraft that Harold Dahl had told about. Captain Smith and I were starting to inspect the fragments when Crisman broke in, saying that the men from their crews were down at the cafe waiting for us for breakfast.

We hurriedly dressed, locked the fragments in the room, left the hotel, got in our respective cars and drove to the lower section of town where there was a little workingman's cafe. There, seated at a large round table covered with an oilcloth were two or three brawny looking men. We could tell by the various greetings between these men, Crisman, and Dahl that they were associates in their salvage and harbor patrol work, presumably their crew members. Captain Smith and I were introduced and we took places around the table. We could smell the bacon frying and the hot cakes cooking in the kitchen. I remember it smelled mighty good.

These men seemed to be very friendly and appeared to have every confidence in their superior officers. We did not ask them to verify the stories of Crisman and Dahl. We felt they would if they had been asked as a number of references were made to the original sighting of Dahl on June 21 on Maury Island. No attempt to settle anything was made at breakfast. We all had healthy appetites and it was more or less a meeting of friendly exchange of words.

I took movies of Captain Smith, Fred L. Crisman and Harold Dahl and of their respective automobiles just after breakfast outside the cafe. All four of us then returned to Room 502 in the Winthrop Hotel where Captain Smith and I proceeded to inspect every piece of the fragments that Crisman and Dahl had brought us.

All of the pieces of the dark lava-like substance were perfectly smooth on one side and slightly curved, while the other side looked like it had been subjected to terrific heat. The metal or lava was extremely heavy, a little brass colored. Even a small piece of this dark metal, about the size of a person's hand and about an inch thick, was quite a labor to lift with one hand.

Someone suggested that these fragments could have been the lining to some kind of a power tube. When we lined up all the pieces, following the curve of the smooth surface, we saw that they could have been a lining of a tube of some kind about six feet in diameter. From this speculation everything seemed to be shaping up in a sense that we could understand.

Fred Crisman handed us a piece of the white metal. Both Smith and I would grant that it was very light, but no more so than the ordinary aluminum which certain sections of all large military aircraft are made of. If this was truly the light metal that Harold Dahl said was spewed from these strange aircraft we knew, or thought we knew, that it was a fake. We had seen hundreds of piles of this stuff in salvage dumps many places throughout the United States where surplus Army bombers had been junked.

There was only one unusual thing about this white metal that made us stop and wonder. On one piece that Crisman handed us we could plainly see that two parts of it had been riveted. However, the rivets were not round, they were square and long rivets. I had never seen that type of rivet used in the aircraft we manufacture and I don't think Smithy had either. This piece of metal did not correspond with Harold Dahl's original description of the extremely light white metal.

So far this was the only flaw that we had found. Neither Captain Smith nor I let on to Crisman or Dahl that we thought this white metal was a fake. This discovery, instead of helping to clear up the mystery, only deepened it. We couldn't figure out if Crisman was pulling a hoax, what he could possibly gain by it. He must have known, being a pilot himself, that we would recognize this white metal. We could have identified it quite easily if it hadn't been for the square rivets and Dahl's story.

After we had looked over the metal and had discussed it, we asked to see the pictures. Harold Dahl said that he had given the camera with its film to Fred Crisman. Crisman described what the pictures looked like but said he was unable to locate them that morning before coming to the hotel. He was sure he had left them in his office down at the docks and would obtain them for us that afternoon.

According to Arnold, it was at that moment that the subject of Lieutenant Frank M. Brown and Captain William Davidson of A-2 military intelligence came up. Brown and Davidson had interviewed Arnold after his sighting, and through Arnold had also met Smith...

This was when I suggested that we call Davidson and Brown of Military Intelligence. They had asked me to call or wire them collect if anything unusual came up and we figured this was certainly unusual. I know that we were thinking of the same thing. We thought if there was any hoax to these stories the prospects of being interrogated by Military Intelligence would cause Crisman and Dahl to show their hand.

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."

Crisman was very enthusiastic about the prospect of Military Intelligence taking over the investigation. Harold Dahl got a rather frightened look on his face and didn't want to have anything to do with it. He said right then and there, "If you call them in, I won't talk to them. My story is true. Fred Crisman knows it and he can tell it for me. I have a peculiar feeling this whole business is going to end up in a lot of bad luck for somebody. I'd just as soon go to a show and forget it from here on out."

Captain Smith said, "I don't know what you're so superstitious about. I think it's a lot of nonsense." Harold Dahl still insisted that he didn't want any part of Military Intelligence but he said he would be available to us if we wanted him.

I got on the telephone and called, collect, as Lt. Frank Brown had insisted I should, Military Intelligence, Fourth Air Force, Hamilton Field, California. I called specifically person to person to Lt. Frank Brown, giving my name to the operator so Brown would know who was calling him. I heard vaguely the conversation on the other end of the line as the telephone operator got hold of Lt. Brown at Hamilton Field. He refused to take the call collect on the military line. He told the operator to notify me that he would call me back immediately from an off the base pay telephone.

I had been adhering to the instructions he had given me in Boise to the letter and I couldn't understand why he had refused my call on a military line. He couldn't have known what I was going to talk to him about. But then, my impression of Lt. Frank Brown was that not only was a he a brilliant fellow, but he probably took all the possible precautions against any leak of information which might throw discredit upon their military operation.

It was only a few minutes until I heard his quarters going into a pay phone and I had him on the line. You could tell Lt. Brown's voice anywhere. He had a slow, easy southern drawl. He was the kind of chap who apparently could take anything in his stride.

I told him that both Captain Smith and I were in Tacoma, in Room 502 at the Winthrop Hotel. We had met a couple of harbor patrolmen who had told us of a very unusual experience they had had with flying saucers on Maury Island. I didn't describe the type of aircraft that they had seen or give him any strong hints of what we had been told. I 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. I did say they offered some metal as proof of their story and that it looked like pieces of lava rock to me.

Lt. Brown came back over the phone, saying, "Sit tight. If we don't call you back within an hour, we'll be there."

There was nothing to do then but sit around and wait. The conversation turned to lighter subjects. Captain Smith was discussing airplanes with Fred Crisman and I began talking to Harold Dahl about the fishing around Tacoma. We talked on subjects such as these for little over an hour.

The only phone calls we received in that time were from reporter Paul Lance and from Ted Morello of United Press. When Ted Morello phoned he said that this crackpot character had been phoning him from a pay telephone, limiting his conversations to about fifteen or twenty seconds. He had him on the other line and asked us to count noses there in the room. Ted Morello said it was the same voice that had been calling him so often the last two days. Knowing that all four of us were in the room at the time, it discounted the possibility that the phone calls were being made by either Dahl or Crisman. Ted Morello didn't tell us what this mysterious informant was talking about. He was evidently checking up on or trying to find out who this informant was.

A few minutes later Paul Lance, the reporter for the Tacoma Times phoned, asking if we could see him. We all agreed that we didn't want to talk to a newspaper reporter. I had turned the telephone over to Captain Smith and he politely hung up. Within a very few minutes someone knocked on our door. Captain Smith went to the door and there stood Paul Lance.

I knew him the moment I saw him. He had tried to talk to me once in the lobby. He was a rather small man, sandy-haired, and physically handicapped, apparently from some childhood disease. He looked healthy and sound. Smithy took him by the arm and practically hauled him into the room, asking roughly what he wanted. Paul Lance was a little shocked. For some reason, I don't know, Smithy quickly frisked him. I don't recall what Paul Lance said. Before he could say what he had come for, Smithy ushered him out into the hallway, telling him we didn't want to be disturbed and that whatever we were doing was none of his business.

Captain Smith and I, particularly, were at a point of nervous tension. I think it was brought on by all these unusual circumstances as well as making the decision to call in Military Intelligence. Neither of us wanted to impose on Lt. Brown or Captain Davidson. We all knew that by now the hour had passed for any return phone call from them and they would be in Tacoma within the next hour or so.

Harold Dahl gave us a phone number where he could be reached. He muttered something about Crisman being able to take care of everything all right as far as his part went, and left the room. Captain Smith invited Crisman to go downstairs with him. Having all the confidence in the world in Smithy, I didn't ask about it but thought it was for a private conversation. They left, too.

I was alone in the room when Frank Brown phoned from the hotel desk, saying they were on their way up. I told him that Smith and Crisman had stepped out for a few minutes but that I would be waiting for them. It was about 4:30 p.m., July 31.

They came right up. Captain Davidson stepped into the room first. He was smiling and seemed very friendly. He was a short stocky fellow of medium complexion, rather round faced. I recall that when he smiled it showed up a long scar on his face very prominently. I had noticed this scar before when he visited at my home. I always meant to ask him where he got it.

As he and Lt. Brown were finding a chair, Captain Davidson said he had something to tell me. I said I thought that Captain Smith and I were entitled from a personal standpoint to know what they had found out. We knew that investigating flying saucer stories had been a full time job for them. We were interrupted by Smithy and Crisman at this point.

When things settled down I told Brown and Davidson that we had run on to what we felt was some tangible evidence of flying saucers but before we showed it to them we wanted to know how far they had gotten in their investigation. Davidson said that they had found out quite a few very interesting things. He motioned me over to my bed, took a piece of paper from his pocket and drew a picture. It was a disk, almost identical to that one peculiar flying saucer that had been worrying me since my original observation -- the one that looked different from the rest and that I had never mentioned to anyone.

As he showed me the drawing he said, "This is a drawing of one of several photographs we consider to be authentic. We just received it at Hamilton Field. "

I turned to Lt. Brown for verification. He nodded his head and stated, "That's right. It came from Phoenix, Arizona the other day. We have prints of it at Hamilton Field but the original negatives were flown to Washington, D.C.

"If you ever get down to Hamilton Field we want you to call on us. We will be glad to have the files opened so you can see this picture," Brown continued.

Excitedly I explained why and how I knew the picture was authentic. I told them that I didn't know why I hadn't mentioned it before but I was positive they were on the right track. I explained that it was identical to that one craft that had looked different than the rest. I hadn't been able, I said, to be absolutely positive as to whether it was really different or whether it was the angle from which I observed it until I saw Captain Davidson's drawing. Was I anxious to see the real photograph! I thought, "I've got to make a trip to Hamilton Field to see this and hear how it was taken."

For the next two and a half hours Fred L. Crisman related Harold Dahl's story. He handed Davidson and Brown some of the fragments that were lying in a pile on the floor. There were twenty-five to thirty pieces. They were handling these while listening to Crisman's story. Captain Smith and I interrupted several times in corrections of Crisman's story of Dahl's experience. They were not major corrections.

After this session we ordered dinner to be served in the room. We 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. Before we realized it, it was nearly midnight. Crisman was reviewing some of his own experiences. He told Brown and Davidson that he would go home and get a box of the fragments and would bring them down immediately so they could take them back to Hamilton Field.

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.

I think we argued for over fifteen minutes that it was senseless to fly back to Hamilton Field that night. Everyone was tired. Since Smithy and I had more or less shoved the responsibility of the rest of the investigation on them, we felt greatly relieved.

Lt. Brown broke into our insistence on their staying the rest of the night. He explained that they absolutely couldn't stay as the next day, August 1, was Air Force day and every plane at Hamilton Field had to be there to take part in the maneuvers. He said that they had flown to Tacoma in a B-25 bomber that had just gone through a complete major overhaul, bringing it up to date with all the latest Air Force equipment installed plus two brand new engines. It had to be on the flight line and ready in the morning.

Later Captain Smith and I thought their excuse for getting back to Hamilton Field was rather flimsy in consideration of the prominent interest they had shown in coming to Tacoma. We both recalled that during the first part of the conversation Lt. Brown had told us that just the night before they had returned to Hamilton Field from seeing Dick Rankin in Portland, Oregon and that they hadn't had much rest for the last two days. We both knew that rest is very important if you are flying aircraft of any kind as lack of it has a direct effect on your alertness.

Crisman in the meantime had left the room to go get the box of fragments. After phoning McChord Field for a military vehicle to come and pick them up, Davidson and Brown got up from their chairs again and prepared to leave. Smith and I accompanied them downstairs to the lobby and stood chatting with them during the short wait for their car.

My mind was going around in circles. I recall how badly I felt that I had asked Brown and Davidson to come to Tacoma. Even though they were as polite and nice as you could ask, they gave me the impression they thought Smith and I were the victims of some silly hoax. When we offered them pieces of the fragments from our room to take with them, they were just not interested. Neither did they seem a bit enthusiastic about the box of fragments Fred Crisman had gone to get.

I remembered, as we were standing on the curb, that I had forgotten to tell them about the anonymous letter Harold Dahl had received after his story became known. The night that I had gone to Dahl's secretary's home, after he handed me the piece of lava-like rock he had been using as an ash tray, he got up abruptly and started searching through all the papers in the kitchen. He was looking for a letter, he said, that was interesting. When he returned to the piano bench a few minutes later he told me he couldn't locate it but would give me a brief of its general contents.

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.

I thought of this while standing saying farewells to Davidson and Brown. I remember I felt happy at the time that I did not mention it to them. Since they had apparently lost interest in the investigation, telling them something like that would probably only convince them further that Harold Dahl's and Fred Crisman's experiences were a hoax.

I said to Frank Brown that if Dahl's and Crisman's experiences were just a lot of baloney, the best way to find out would be to go out to Maury Island and see if there was twenty tons of this lava rock on the beach. If it was, and could be documented that it was foreign to the natural formation on Maury Island, this might help substantiate the truthfulness of Dahl's and Crisman's stories.

Just as the Army command car pulled up in front of the hotel Fred L. Crisman came racing up. He double-parked his Ford roadster and started taking a large Kellogg corn flakes box out of the trunk of his car. We assumed it was the fragments. Captain Davidson told their chauffeur to wait a second. He helped Crisman unload this box from the trunk of his car, lifted the trunk of the command car, and put it in.

I was standing close by and offered to help lift the box. By the street lights and the hotel lights I could see the top of the box flapping open. Inside the box were a great number of large chunks of material that looked similar to the fragments we had in our room. Somehow, though, they looked more rocky and less metallic.

I remember this distinctly. In bending back one of the loose cardboard flaps on the top of the box I handled one of the pieces. All of the pieces I could see, and the one I handled, were much thicker than any of the pieces we had in our room. While this was taking place Captain Smith was bidding farewell to Lt. Brown. I yelled "Goodbye and good luck" as the command car drove away. As Smithy and I stood there anyone could have seen we were mixed up. It was very obvious. This was the screwiest situation that we had ever been in.

Fred Crisman in the meantime parked his automobile and the three of us went out for coffee and doughnuts. Crisman left for home, wherever that was. We never knew where he lived but he had said he wasn't married. Big Smithy and I returned to our hotel room thinking it would be a relief in the morning to get out of that town and go home.

We hadn't any more than gotten into our room than the phone started to ring. This time it was Ted Morello, telling us what this mysterious telephone informant had told him had taken place in our room. He insisted that we either definitely deny or confirm this information. This time his voiced seemed less like a man looking for a news story. It had a pleading tone to it as if he was only interested in our welfare. It was truly fantastic how this mysterious telephone informant was giving him such accurate information.

I did not deny or confirm anything but handed the telephone to Captain Smith. He listened for awhile to what Morello was saying and then hung up. It was certainly puzzling. Smithy and I speculated on the fact that maybe a small transmitter had been planted somewhere on one of us or was in the room and we had not found it. Maybe someone blocks away with a receiver was picking up everything we talked about. That was the only logical explanation for it unless Crisman or Dahl, through some type of communication, was getting this information to the press.

We figured this was certainly a cute way to pull a hoax, if that was what was being pulled on us. However, we just couldn't figure out why anyone would go to all that trouble. Anyhow, it was Military Intelligence's problem now. I recall Smithy interrupting our ponderings on the subject by singing or attempting to sing, the song that was popular then about the leaky faucet. We both had a good laugh. We thought that song was just about as silly as we were getting to be. We retired to bed, taking the careful precaution to lock all the doors and to close the transom.

Such was the story of events up through the night of July 31, 1947, as told by Ken Arnold in his 1952 book, The Coming of the Saucers.

But Captain Smith's version of events -- as related in an FBI memo less than three weeks later -- would tell a far different tale.

E.J. Smith

Above: A July 6, 1947 wire photo of United Airlines pilot E.J. Smith.

ON AUGUST 19, 1947 FBI Special Agent In Charge Jack Wilcox filed a report concerning the events at Tacoma. As part of that report Wilcox included a statement taken by FBI agent Pierre Levec from Captain Smith on August 12th -- less than two weeks after the events.

Smith's statement to the FBI veered considerably from Arnold's version, written five years later. The most glaring discrepancy was that though Arnold said Smith arrived on July 30, Smith stated that he had arrived the next day, July 31. This meant that the phone call from reporter Ted Morello on the night of July 30 reporting a mysterious informant who had told all that had taken place that night amongst Arnold, Smith, Crisman and Dahl could not be, nor the four men having breakfast together the next morning. And in fact in Smith's version of events, Arnold had already called Brown and Davidson of military intelligence before Smith ever arrived late in the afternoon of July 31.

Smith's story, as related in the August 19, 1947 FBI report by Jack Wilcox...

SMITH's next contact with ARNOLD was on Thursday, July 31, last when he received a telephone call from ARNOLD calling from Tacoma in the early afternoon at which time he asked SMITH to come over to Tacoma and join him as he was investigating a flying disc story for "someone back East" and some fragments were involved which SMITH might be interested in seeing. After some discussion SMITH agreed to join ARNOLD in Tacoma and ARNOLD told SMITH he would fly over and pick him up at Boeing Airport at 4:00 P.M. SMITH met ARNOLD at Boeing Field at about 4:00 P.M. and they flew to Berry's Airport at Tacoma, Washington where they were met by FRED CRISMAN. The three of them proceeded in CRISMAN's car to the Winthrop Hotel where ARNOLD was occupying room 502. ARNOLD ordered something to eat and during this time either ARNOLD or CRISMAN called a HAROLD DAHL and invited him up to the room. By this time SMITH states he had learned from ARNOLD that CRISMAN and DAHL were the participants in the latest flying disc story and SMITH states that he had no previous acquaintance with either of these men before meeting them in Tacoma on this date. While in the Hotel room ARNOLD showed SMITH a letter which he had received from RAYMOND PALMER of the Venture Press of Chicago requesting that ARNOLD investigate the CRISMAN-DAHL story in Tacoma. ARNOLD informed SMITH at this time that after receiving this letter he had called PALMER by telephone in Chicago as a result of which call PALMER had forwarded him $200.00 expense money for covering the story. Shortly thereafter, at about 7:30 P.M. HAROLD DAHL arrived at the Hotel room and the discussion began among the four men present as to what DAHL and CRISMAN had seen on Maury Island. DAHL professed reluctance to tell the story, claiming that several unfortunate incidents had occurred subsequent to his seeing the flying discs, and he believed that the entire incident had brought him bad luck. In this connection he stated that four or five days subsequent to his sighting the flying discs, a man called at his home and had a conversation with him the course of which DAHL was warned to forget all about everything he had seen on or near Maury Island. In addition to that, DAHL stated that his sixteen year old son had run away from home following the incident and had been picked up by the police somewhere in Montana. After some further discussion DAHL finally agreed to tell his story of the flying disc incident in front of SMITH after eliciting a promise from SMITH that he would not discuss the matter for at least two weeks. It should be noted that DAHL had previously told his story to ARNOLD and CRISMAN. At this point DAHL related the incident which has already been described and which he alleged had taken place on or about June 23 or 24. While relating the incident DAHL mentioned that he had taken pictures of the flying disc which he had seen but that the printed films were marred with white spots. When DAHL had concluded his story, CRISMAN related that he had gone the following day to Maury Island to verify what DAHL had told him concerning the fragments and had at this time picked up several fragments and taken them with him. At this time CRISMAN related that he also saw one of the flying discs hovering over the Island but that it had disappeared into a cloud. When DAHL and CRISMAN had finished telling their story ARNOLD told the group that he had earlier in that evening called Captain DAVIDSON and Lieutenant BROWN, Army Intelligence officers and that they were on their way to the Hotel room. At this point DAHL protested that he did not wish to tell his story before anyone else and he was advised by SMITH that if such was the case why didn't he just leave and not be there when they arrived. CRISMAN, DAHL and SMITH then left the room and went downstairs. DAHL departed alone. CRISMAN drove SMITH back to Boeing Field near Seattle where SMITH desired to pick up his own personal car, which he did. They then returned to the Hotel where they found Captain DAVIDSON and Lieutenant BROWN in room 502 with KENNETH ARNOLD. ARNOLD met them at the door and seemed excited, explaining to SMITH that Captain DAVIDSON had just drawn a reproduction of a freak disc which supposedly been seen by a woman in Arizona and that this drawing was an exact reproduction of the flying disc which he, ARNOLD, had seen several weeks before, nearing Mt. Rainier. SMITH states that shortly after this CRISMAN seemed very anxious to tell his and DAHL's story to the Army officers. Before this was done, however SMITH had a discussion with Lieutenant BROWN, informing him that they had promised DAHL not to release the story for two weeks and that if CRISMAN were allowed to tell the story at this time, BROWN and DAVIDSON must agree not to release the story for one month. Following this agreement, CRISMAN related DAHL's and his story of the flying discs over Maury Island to BROWN and DAVIDSON. Following this recitation, Lieutenant BROWN, in answer to a query from SMITH said that he and Captain DAVIDSON were of the opinion that there might be some truth in the current flying disc stories, but that their immediate superiors (presumably A-2 at Hamilton Field) did not agree with them. BROWN and DAVIDSON then held a brief discussion as to whether they should return that same night to Hamilton Field and they decided that they would. All five of the men then went down to the lobby where BROWN detached himself from the group and entered a phone booth to call for a car from McChord Field. SMITH also left the group and met BROWN outside the phone booth where they held a short discussion relative to the credibility of CRISMAN and DAHL's story. BROWN indicated to SMITH that he should attemt [sic] to find out if the story was on the level and that BROWN would call him the following day regarding this matter. The group then proceeded to the front of the Hotel at which time CRISMAN brought his car to the front of the Hotel and took from his trunk a box of the alleged flying disc fragments picked up on Maury Island. He offered them to BROWN and DAVIDSON and when the Army car arrived from McChord Field the box of fragments was placed in the car with the officers. CRISMAN departed alone and ARNOLD and SMITH went in search of something to eat and later returned to the Hotel for the night.

Conspicuously missing from this version of events was any mention of the call Arnold said had been received on the afternoon of July 31 from United Press reporter Ted Morello saying the mysterious informant was on the other line even as all four men involved -- Arnold, Smith, Crisman and Dahl -- were together in Arnold's room at that moment.

Nor was there any mention of Tacoma Times reporter Paul Lance calling and then coming up uninvited to the room and being escorted away by Smith.

And of course the most glaring discrepancy between Arnold's version -- written five years after the events -- and Smith's version, given in a statement less than two weeks after the events, lay in the arrival date of Smith, and all that had happened before Brown and Davidson appeared. Included in that overall discrepancy between stories were many inner discrepancies as well, such as Smith saying that while they waited for Brown and Davidson to arrive Smith departed Tacoma with Crisman to go get Smith's car in Seattle, while Arnold stated that had happened the day before and that on the day Brown and Davidson arrived Smith had only pulled Crisman from the room seemingly to have a private conversation. Another inner discrepancy was in Smith's stating that he and Crisman had been out of the room when Brown and Davidson arrived and upon their return met an excited Arnold telling about a picture drawn by Davidson of a flying disc reported in Arizona, while Arnold says Smith and Crisman were both in the room when Davidson made the sketch.

The reasons for these and other discrepancies can only ever be the subject of speculation. But included in Wilcox's report was a copy of a sworn affidavit by Smith telling essentially the same story, and noting...

A copy of this deposition is now in possession of the writer and is being forwarded herewith to the Bureau. It should be noted that this deposition is in no way as complete as the statement taken by the writer above and any setting out of this deposition in this communication would be superfluous.

And discerning the truth of the events is further complicated by the fact that Arnold's 1952 book in which he tells his version of events at Tacoma -- The Coming of the Saucers -- was published by Raymond Palmer, who is listed as co-author. As editor of Amazing Stories Palmer had been known to re-write his authors' work, the most notable instance being in pushing what came to be known as the "Shaver mystery", which told of an ancient race preceding modern humans who lived in vast underground caves and who used fantastic technology to cause misery and misfortune to humans who dwelt on the surface. Known as "deros", they were opposed by a much smaller band from the same stock who were known as "teros", who worked to protect mankind. And it seems likely that this was the basis for including the odd sidelight of Arnold suddenly "remembering" that he had forgotten to tell Brown and Davidson of the weird anonymous letter supposedly received but misplaced by Harold Dahl, telling that...

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.

And if it was indeed a coded reference inserted by Arnold or Palmer for the benefit of those who believed in "deros" and "teros", it would not be the last one.

But whatever the precise truth of the events through the night of July 31, 1947 -- and there will be much more on this later -- Smith's and Arnold's stories would continue to diverge after that... even as death stepped in, and took a hand.

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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".


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


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