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saucer summer reading fest


In late September, 1950, Frank Scully's book "Behind the Flying Saucers" -- the purportedly true tale of crashed discs and recovered alien bodies -- began a rapid climb up the nation's best-seller lists. In reaction, the Air Force would launch a major public-relations offensive continuing into the first months of 1951. The following articles tell the beginning of that story -- to be concluded in the next post -- starting with an interview of Scully, found in the September 25, 1950, edition of the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Post...

True pages

Above: Beginning of interview published in the Post.

Flying Saucers! -- Fact or Fiction?

Insistent as the voice of conscience, stories of the flying saucers cannot be ignored. Ever since Denver Post reporters identified Silas Newton as the mysterious Denver university lecturer who gave a detailed account of the space ships and their miniature other-world crews said to have landed in New Mexico, the subject has been almost too hot to handle. One man, Author Frank Scully, has refused to be silenced. Henry Holt and company [sic, uncapitalized] have published his book, "Behind the Flying Saucers" ($2.75) this month. Here is the Denver Post newspaper's interview with Scully, presented for your judgment. What about the saucers -- do they exist? Are there three of them now under secret examination by Air Force intelligence? What do YOU think?

THERE exists now, today, a concerted plan by human beings on another planet -- probably Venus -- to contact our earth, and to observe and visit us via the use of marvelously constructed space ships . . . "flying saucers manned by small human beings," says Frank Scully, Hollywood novelist, columnist, contributor to Reader's Digest, Esquire and many other publications.

Who is this Scully -- a famous scientist? A big atomic shot? A magnetic force authority on a billion dollar project?

"I'm just a writer, and not an authority on anything," Scully says of himself, "but on this flying saucer deal I do know several disgruntled top-ranking scientists and engineers who were called in by the Air Force to aid in the 'Project Saucer' investigation.

"These authorities are my close friends and they told me much of the inside story about the mysterious space ships, the interplanetary cruising ships that they have actually seen and helped take apart. They have even touched the small human bodies of the pilot crews. They gave me the inside dope on this terrific story which is being kept from the public."

Frank Scully, author of a dozen books, a regular columnist for Hollywood Variety, the "bible" of the movie production world, prominent in California politics, is a man with a reputation for outspoken honesty. He is the author of "Behind the Flying Saucers," published this month by Henry Holt & Co. This intriguing book purports to reveal the facts about flying saucers -- facts which Scully insists have been zealously suppressed.

Centuries Ahead

He writes knowingly of electro-magnetic force, by which the "very real" space ships are propelled, and details other amazing developments allegedly employed by the outer-planet saucermen [sic, throughout] who are "200 to 500 years ahead of our topflight scientists," according to Scully's anonymous informants.

"For several years the nation's press has carried a line of stories poking fun and ridicule at people who have seen flying saucers," says Scully. "The Air Force has said the saucers are a hoax, nothing to them. The public generally has come to accept the explanation that these space ships are merely optical illusions, our own jet planes, the result of practical jokes, stellar light phenomena or faked-up yarns by publicity seekers. But my sources of information are scientists who have been in my home, talked freely with me, shown me detailed blueprints of three flying saucers which fell or landed in New Mexico during the last two years. One measured 36 feet across and carried a crew of two men.

"Another was 72 feet in diameter and the third, a giant ninety-nine and ninety-nine hundredths feet wide, had a cabin 72 inches high. A total of 34 small men were found in these three ships. The two larger saucers had 16-man crews.

"These statements simply cannot be untrue. Why would my scientist friends hand me a line of lies?"

Scully says that one of the big saucers landed in New Mexico on a ranch near Aztec and the other pancaked to a perfect landing "near a western air base." The crews in both ships were dead.

In the 36-foot saucers one member of the two-man crew was found lying dead across the sill of the door which he had apparently opened on landing. Death seemed to have been caused by the "bends," that affliction which has agonized deep-sea divers and upper stratosphere flyers in the past when they moved suddenly from one air pressure area to a greatly different one without the proper means of decompression. The other saucerman was dead at the ship's instrument panel.

These space ships, according to Scully, were pounced upon within three hours after they landed by scientists from Denver, and shortly transported, marked as "ammunition," on Army trucks to Wright Field, Dayton, O.

Saucermen in Uniform

"Here are the facts about these space ships that have been found in New Mexico," says Scully, "as they have been told to me:

"The three ships were propelled by electromagnetic power and traveled at the speed of light, 186,000 miles per second. Einstein says that nothing can travel faster than light. The Aztec saucer was found in the spring of 1949. The 16 men inside it wore uniform blue plasticlike [sic] woven suits and stood 36 to 40 inches in height. A small hole in the window of their ship appeared to explain why they had been burned black upon contact with our atmosphere. The crews of all three saucers had been sealed inside their ships.

"Most likely they came from the planet of Venus, which is 161,000,000 miles away.

"These ships could have made the round trip here and return in far less than one hour.

"These men appeared to be normal human beings, but quite small. They were not dwarfs. There was hair on their heads and down on their faces. Their food supply was comprised of small wafers. Dissolved in a gallon of water one of these made a gallon of nourishing food. There were containers of good sweet water aboard -- heavier water than ours. There were no light bulbs, a fact that led the scientist witness to speculate that the interspace cruisers were illuminated by magnetic force.

"Each of these ships was operated by set instruments. There were no engines, but rather gears within gears which drove the ships at 186,000 miles per second by dialing in on an unlimited supply of electromagnetic force.

No Screws, No Nails

"The metal of which these ships were made looked like aluminum. Terrifically strong, not a screw or nail was used in the construction. Ten men could jump up and down on a wing surface and not dent it. Scientists at Wright Field used up to $35,000 worth of diamond drills trying to drill through the metal and failed. Acetylene torches wouldn't cut through it.

"Scientists and military observers were able to enter the small ship through the opened door, and they got into one of the larger ships through the broken glass-like observation platform. The third ship was so very solid and sound they could find no means of forcing entry. Just by chance somebody shined a flashlight through a top observation window which caused a door to spring open. Thus they entered and were able to study many mysteries which had confronted them."

Scully's scientist and engineer informants, called in by the Government to examine the space ships, were very angry, he says, when the story was hushed up and shelved. They were also displeased when some of the craft were butchered to provide souvenirs for "top brass." According to Scully, these authorities said the flying saucers, zooming on their tremendous journeys at the speed of light, followed magnetic wave bands which radiate from our sun around the earth, Venus and the moon.

The California author says his "Behind the Flying Saucers" is the first book to explain in simple language the principles of magnetic force -- material which Scully gleaned in turn from an as-yet-unpublished book on the subject, five years in preparation by university scientists in the United States and members of the government's project in this field.

Two New Metals

More information, Scully says, was disclosed to him about the space ships now in Air Force hands: Wright Field scientists and personnel made 150 tests, yet couldn't identify two of the metals used in the ships; no wood was employed; the cloth in the saucermen's clothing was so strong that a single thread supported 450 pounds before breaking; the uniforms disclosed no apparent variation in rank of the men.

There was, he adds, untearable parchment-like paper in the ships bearing writing similar to a pre-Sanskrit form -- a picture-writing language. It will be recalled that the Mayan Indians of Central America used a picture-writing, hieroglyphic language, still undeciphered.

"Obviously the reason the Air Force has 'dummied up,' refused to let the public know anything about the flying saucers is that they don't want Russia to learn anything about the tremendously important scientific marvels contained in these ships -- how they can fly at the speed of light without requiring an ounce of fuel, how they are built, how they can 'freeze' and disintegrate enemy objects that approach them.

"Of course, flying saucers may have been landed in Red Square, too. If so, the Russians also have been dummying up to keep us in ignorance."

Saucers, Saucers Everywhere

Writer Scully is a very persistent and angry man these last few months. "Flying saucers are buzzing all over the place," says he, "and the Air Force says they don't exist, grabs the land they light on and hides them from the public. I'll never be happy until I touch a real saucer."

Scully is fascinated by the strange case of famed United States Air Force Pilot Captain Thomas F. Mantell. Mantell, a Kentucky Air National Guardsman and veteran of the Normandy invasion was flying his F-51 in formation and sighted a flying saucer. The flight gave chase, and when the space ship got too high, all but Mantell headed back to Godman Air Base for oxygen equipment. Mantell followed the strange saucer to 20,000 feet before meeting his death. Up to an abrupt point he was in constant radio contact with the field.

"Mantell and his ship were simply frozen in the air when he approached the saucer," says Scully. "Certainly we know of recorded cases where planes have been frozen by nearness to saucers -- then released. It is a known fact that it is possible in a laboratory to disintegrate an object by crossing its magnetic lines."

Scully, in an effort to persuade the Air Force that their information should be divulged regarding saucers which he feels certain they have found and dismantled, recently shot 20 questions at them in Washington -- to which the Air Force authorities replied with silence. Scully, nothing daunted, had his 20 questions published in Hollywood's Variety magazine and shortly after in the February 3 issue of the California magazine, Fortnight. Here are some of the questions:

What happened to the remains of the 16 men found dead in one of the large saucers and the two in the smaller disk?

Did you ever see a radio like the one which was on the flying saucer that landed on a ranch in New Mexico?

Why is it that pilots who have been trained to identify every make, model and nationality of airplanes all describe these space ships as "saucer-shaped"?

Weren't all the saucers found in the Western Hemisphere magnetic rather than jet jobs?

Evidence Destroyed?

Do you know how magnetic waves emanate from the sun, revolve around the earth, continue on to earth's moon, come back to the earth and return from there to the sun? Do you know that magnetic waves following a similar course travel between the sun and Venus? If you don't know much about this, why did you insist on tearing everything open that might have helped the magnetic scientists in determining if a saucer magnetically controlled could hop from one magnetic zone to another?

The Air Corps ignored Scully's questions, but he'll learn the answers or keep on trying for them until ordered to stop, he says. He is a stubborn man when pursuing a story.

"Why have these flying saucers been coming down to our earth?" he asks. "That's fairly obvious. We study the moon, the sun and the other planets through telescopes; we analyze them, conjecture whether or not they are inhabited, have trees, lakes, roads. Even now we are planning space ship voyages to the moon. Isn't it logical to suppose other humans on other planets are just as intrigued by what the earth may hold? They can try making space trips too."

Scully showed this writer two small aluminum scale models of the three flying saucers taken in New Mexico in 1948-49. He also displayed detailed blueprints and specifications given him by his scientist friends. These excite the imagination, but Scully says that sober aircraft experts who have examined them say they are entirely feasible.

"There you are," says Frank Scully. "I'm convinced we'll get the facts about these space ships sooner or later. Hardest thing about getting to meet these folks from Venus apparently is not in bringing them here to a safe landing. It's in getting them and their flying saucers away from the Air Force. These lads got here from Venus, I'm sure. We'll see some of them yet."

In mid-November, 1950, the Air Force would answer Scully's charges by way of a four-part article penned by Robert Considine, and serialized nationwide by the International News Service...

True pages

Above: Beginning of four-part Considine series as published in the November 12, 1950 edition of the Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Gazette. The illustrations were not part of the wire service story, and varied widely amongst newspapers. The following represents -- as near as possible -- the text of the story sent out over the wires, without the subheadings supplied by individual newspapers...

Flying Saucers: Myth or Mystery?
Air Force Says There Just Isn't, or Wasn't Such a Thing!

The U.S. Air Force is still investigating reports of flying saucers despite an announcement that its efforts to hunt down the mysterious objects were abandoned. What it has found in tracking down thousands of tips, rumors and eyewitness accounts makes a fascinating modern-age detective story. To find the true story of the flying saucers amid the welter of fanciful and honest reports including a supposed visitation of little men from Venus, Bob Considine went first to the men who know the story best -- the air force operators of "project saucer". This is the first of four articles.

By Bob Considine
International News Service Staff Correspondent

"I've seen a lot of flying saucers," calmly remarked Col. Harold E. Watson, the air force's foremost authority on the controversial subject.

"Plenty of them," the intelligence chief of Wright Field's Air Materiel command went on, with the weariness of a man who has told a story too often. "And I've chased after them in the air force's fastest propeller-driven plane, the F-51. Caught them, too.

"And every single saucer turned out to be the sun shining off the wing or body of a distant DC-4, or a Jet, or a weather balloon, or it was a reflection off a water tank, or something else that is readily explainable.

"I don't know what it takes to convince the public," he said, not without a note of despair. "But there are no such things as flying saucers. They don't exist. THEY JUST DON'T EXIST!"

We asked him how he accounted for the increasing number of persons who report their alleged observation of objects of non-astronomical origin streaking through the skies.

Col. Watson sighed.

"We are going through a seasonal hallucination," he explained. "We've kept a careful check on these periods of mass illusion. They reach peaks shortly after some unusual stir in the saucer field. The two articles that appeared in True magazine caused jumps on the graph. Henry J. Taylor's broadcast caused another.

"The most recent jump was the result of Frank Scully's book, 'Behind the Flying Saucers', which made me ill after 15 pages. The series you plan to write for International News Service will cause still another outbreak of saucer stories even though you reverse the field and tell the people the absolute truth: That it's a lot of damned nonsense."

Col. Watson stated with emphasis that at the end of nearly every flying saucer report that can be tracked down stands a crackpot, a religious crank, a publicity hound, or a malicious practical joker. Pranksters actually have gone to the trouble of building and then destroying bizarre gadgets which they at first swore had landed in their yards or farms from outer space.

Hundreds of other well-meaning persons have become helpless foils of the mass hysteria induced by fears of aerial invasion, the colonel said. They feel it their duty to report whatever oddity they see, or think they see, in the sky.

"It keeps us busy," Col. Watson said, thumbing through the thick dossier of flying saucer memoranda which he had brought with him from Wright Field, for our meeting at the Pentagon.

He repeated that the air force is concealing nothing from the public, despite a number of charges levelled against it by authors, and by periodicals which either believe naively in the existence of the saucers or feel that the categorical air force denials will have a bad effect on sales.

But with characteristic precaution he would not permit us to examine the text of the dossier.

"It is marked confidential as you can see," Col. Watson said, and with a smile he added, "But that's not because we have anything in this file that relates to alarming findings. These are reports made to us by our O.S.I. (Office of Special Investigation), the F.B.I., and postoffice [sic] department inspectors.

"It would serve no purpose to reveal the name of these agents."

We reminded the Colonel that he appeared to be in charge of a unit which the air force announced it was formally discontinuing last Dec. 27, after 375 flying saucer investigations had proved fruitless.

"We're still in business," the Colonel added. "The air force naturally will always have a lively interest in whatever is reported in its sky. That's our job.

"But we no longer chase down such tips as this," he said, opening his sheaf of paper to a scrawled letter and quoting some of its many allusions to Biblical prophecies.

"We look into only such reports as appear to be outside the spheres of regular reports we receive on the scheduled and unscheduled movements of commercial and military aircraft, the regular radar and astronomical reports we receive, meteorological balloon releases, rocket and guided missile tests, and air targets dragged by mother planes.

"In this way we're able to weed out all but about five flying saucer alarms a day. These we're likely to track down to the point where the hoax or misconception is obvious to the agents. Of course, we're always ready to examine any wreckage reported as the remnants of a flying saucer.

"But these have all been fools' errands. Costly errands, too, that tie up the time and talent of good men."

We asked him to explain the accounts of mysterious flying objects which have been reported by responsible pilots for TWA, United, Eastern, Chicago & Southern, and other lines.

Col. Watson shrugged.

"Fatigue, I'd say," he replied. "And the power of suggestions. And the optical tricks that windshields can play on an airman -- especially at night. I'm not questioning the integrity of these men, or of the occasional hostess or passenger who has 'corroborated' their testimony. But the most careful inquiry into their stories has produced not a shred of real supporting evidence."

To spotlight the vigilance of the air force, and at the same time its own susceptibility to the flying saucer scare, Col. Watson revealed that even Wright Field -- where the world's foremost aeronautical engineers are stationed -- recently had a saucer "alert."

A radar operator at the field picked up a curiously shaped object on his screen shortly after a nearby farmer had phoned the field that he had spotted a saucer headed that way. Visual observation was not possible at the field because black smoke from the chimneys of a nearby cement plant had settled over the area.

Jets were immediately dispatched to chase the object. As they neared it -- obscure in the smoke haze, but of a vaguely different color -- the radio compasses on their instrument boards spun around as if they had just passed over a radio-guide beacon.

It was a magnetically charged cloud, a familiar phenomenon of the heavens and one that is always able to jar a plane's radio compass, and reveal itself on a radar screen.

At the conclusion of a comprehensive session with the air force spokesman, which will be further dealt with in subsequent articles, Col. Watson declared:

"I don't know how to make it plainer than this: The air force has in its possession no flying saucers, or parts of flying saucers. It has no bodies of 'little men' nor any samples of the so-called clothes these imaginary creatures wore. It has investigated hundreds of rumors without finding an iota of responsible supporting testimony or a shred of evidence.

"This planet is not being spied upon by space-creatures, nor has any potential earth enemy sent observation ships against us. No branch of the armed forces has an aircraft or missile resembling the structure or alleged performance of a flying saucer."

Harvard Astronomer Dr. Donald H. Menzel stated the matter more briefly. Asked about the space ship theory, he simply exploded, "nuts!"

Dr. Harlow Shapley, Harvard's observatory director, said, "the whole thing is so crazy that I don't think astronomers should dignify it by commenting."

A public which has reluctantly but finally come to comprehend that one small A-bomb can destroy an entire city, now believes implicitly that science is about to produce a H-bomb so appallingly destructive that it will use the A-bomb as a mere detonating cap. But science is not too sure.

The public has been confronted with countless other marvels, including the crossing of an ocean by a submerged submarine; plus the smashing of the sonic barrier by the rocket plane XS-1, and a non-stop flight around the earth by a B-29.

It therefore is prone to credit flying saucer stories as either wholly true or within the realm of probability. Despite the warnings of responsible scientists, and critics who took the trouble to check up on its manifest absurdities, the American reading public has made a best-seller out of Scully's book.

In the face of delusion and downright hoax, the harried air force issues its periodic denials -- and at the same time begins to understand why Jules Verne sold well and Jersey farmers stampeded in terror before Orson Welles' "Invasion of the Martians."

(Tomorrow: The air force's six-month search for two non-existent flying saucers, complete with non-existent "little men.")

* * *

How Yarn of Flying Disks From Venus Began, Ended

This is the second of four articles on the question: "Flying Saucers -- Myth or Mystery?"

By Bob Considine
INS Correspondent

In his book about flying saucers, a best-selling tome which the air force either laughs at derisively or condemns as a trouble maker, Frank Scully presented to a gullible public an account by a Dr. Gee of two grounded saucers containing midgets from the planet Venus.

According to the mysterious Dr. Gee, identified as "the top magnetic research specialist in the U.S.", he and seven other scientists were called in by the air force to examine a strange aircraft that landed "in a very rocky, high plateau territory, east of Aztec, N.M."

The doc's group, according to Scully, watched the thing from a safe distance for two days, bombing it with "cosmic rays and other protective devices."

Then they advanced close enough to note that it was saucer-shaped and the width of the saucer measured 99 and 99/100ths feet. Solution of a double knob opened a door and enabled the men of this pipe dream to enter.

"We took the little bodies out and laid them on the ground," Scully says the doc told him. There were 16 of them, ranging in height from 36 to 42 inches.

There follows an account of how charred their skins were, but Scully's drowsing muse allowed him to quote Gee's description of their clothes, navigation charts, equipment and other perishable properties somehow uncharred.

Gee went to the trouble of reporting that the teeth of the little men "contained no cavities or fillings." But the wicked air force men seized the bodies for dissection and broke up the nice saucer -- put together with no rivets.

The air force tossed Dr. Gee a few crumbs, the story went: A tiny tubeless radio, a few gears and some small disks for study.

Another saucer which Scully said was examined by Dr. Gee and his staff fell "near Phoenix." It was 36 feet in diameter ("...and the size of the cabin and all the rest of dimensions balanced out on the same system of nines found in the other ship.")

Two midgets were in this one, also very dead. No toilet facilities as in the plush-job saucers. No food wafers which dropped into a gallon of water "...boiled over the sides of the container."

Again the hated Pentagonians (unnamed officers who constitute the menace in the preposterous book) stepped in and took away all the fine evidence, including some watches from Venus which, inexplicably, worked in consonance with our moon, not Venus' moon.

I spread this now familiar story before the air force's outstanding authority and official spokesman on the flying saucer hoax, Col. Harold E. Watson.

At the request of Brig. Gen. Sory Smith, Watson flew to Washington from Wright field, Dayton, for the interview. He is, in addition to his trying saucer duties, chief intelligence officer of the air materiel command.

"I'll tell you the origin and ending of that ridiculous yarn," Watson said, opening the dossier of restricted investigation reports he brought.

This is the air force story, with dates and names documented by the FBI and Office of Special Investigation:

Late last year in the drinking room of the Lakeside Country club in Hollywood, Bruce Cabot, actor, overheard a man say he knew of a man who had in his possession portions of a flying saucer.

Later Cabot called an air force office in the Los Angeles region and reported the incident. His informant's name, he said, was Newton or Newman.

Newton or Newman added, Cabot said, that his friend salvaged a mysterious little "magnetic radio" from the wreckage of a saucer and they were using it to locate oil deposits.

The tedious and expensive (to the taxpayers) job of querying Cabot, suddenly very hard to find -- and of finding Newton or Newman got under way.

After several wrong turns, the investigators learned that a Si Newton, who was in the oil business, sometimes played golf at Lakeside but the club had no phone number or address for him. Cabot was on location.

On Jan. 6, 1950, a Kansas paper printed an interview with one Rudy Fick, giving somewhat similar details. The investigators tracked down Fick, who said he had been told the story by someone he called Coulter. Didn't know the first name or where to reach him, but Coulter was a friend of Jack Murphy of the Ford Company, Denver.

Coulter became George Koehler after the investigators spoke to the skeptical Murphy, but at the time little else was learned except that Murphy understood from Koehler that parts of two saucers were in the "U.S. research bureau," Los Angeles. There is no such organization, the post office reported.

The trail led to Albuquerque in quest of a Dr. Gebauer or Jarbrauer, from who Koehler is said to have borrowed the "magnetic radio." And promptly grew cold. No Gebauer, no Jarbrauer.

Back in Denver, Murphy said that most of what he had heard had come from one Morley B. Davies of the J. Walter Thompson Advertising Agency, who knew Koehler -- by now identified as an advertising salesman for a Denver radio station.

Murphy had asked Davies to ask Koehler to show him what he had, and Koehler had appeared with several small gears and metal disks and a gadget he called a radio that spoke occasionally in a tongue not of this earth.

Murphy told the investigators he had identified the disks as knockout plugs -- of the kind placed on the walls of some automobile engines to mitigate against cracks through freezing. The gears, he said, were just gears, and the radio, if it was one, wouldn't work.

But the story expanded nevertheless. Investigators soon had to gumshoe a report, credited to Koehler, that he and the mysterious Gebauer or Jarbrauer had lifted one of the grounded saucers (seems it was very buoyant) but had dropped it back to the ground when it showed signs of taking off.

It was reported too that 15 other midgets had parachuted safely to the badlands of the Southwest but had made themselves invisible when pursued by Gebauer. Davies insisted that Koehler had told him the saucers came from Venus at a speed of 100,000 miles per second.

Davies also related that Koehler told him he examined a saucer in Gebauer's alleged laboratory near Phoenix and that before entering the place he was asked to disrobe and put on a special one-piece suit.

Despite these precautions, the investigators patiently heard, a warning bell sounded as he entered, "because of the plate in his head."

In the course of the bizarre inquiry, whose subject was to be presented straight-facedly in book form by Scully (whose Hollywood chores bring him in contact with members of the Lakeside club), investigators tracked down a report that one of the "little men" had been sent to Chicago's "Rosenwald Institution." The directors of the famed Rosenwald Foundation issued an indignant denial.

After six months of costly work, which sorely immobilized officers and agents who had been trained for more realistic work at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars, the file on the little men was closed and the ludicrous story ended with several of the principals refusing to answer investigators on constitutional grounds.

(Tomorrow: More saucer hoaxes and misconceptions that have been brought down to earth by government agents.)

* * *

Flying Saucer Believers Cite Odd Death of Mantell

This is the third installment of a series providing the most authoritative available information on flying saucers

By Bob Considine
INS Correspondent

One of the feeble straws usually reached for by the amateur or professional true believer in flying saucers is the strange death of Capt. Thomas F. Mantell, jr.

The true believers refuse to accept the air force assay of the tragedy, which took place near Fort Knox Jan. 7, 1948.

Mantell and two other veterans of the air war in Europe were flying F-51s to Louisville early that afternoon when state police notified For Knox that a round object, estimated to be 250 feet in diameter, was headed for the sky over the vast gold reserve.

Several observers at the nearby Godman air base verified the report and officially noted that the object was giving off a reddish glow. The airfield commander, learning that three F-51s were in the vicinity at good altitude, asked them to take a look.

During the next half-hour Mantell sent several messages back to the control tower. Whatever it was, he reported, it was climbing at what he estimated as 360 m.p.h. It looked metallic, he said, and was "tremendous." The three F-51s climbed to 18,000 feet where, in broken clouds, Mantell was lost sight of by the other two. These two peeled off, dropped back to Godman field, and explained they had given up because their craft were not equipped with oxygen tanks. Neither was Mantell's.

The last word from Mantell was that the thing was still climbing as fast as his F-51 and that, if he could not close in on it by the time he reached 20,000 feet, he'd give up.

Mantell's body and the wreckage of his plane were found a short time later near Fort Knox -- the wreckage strewn over an area of half a mile.

To this day, no one knows exactly why Mantell crashed. Donald F. Keyhoe, formerly of the aeronautics branch of the commerce department, writing in True magazine, rejected air force theories about Mantell's death and quoted one of the pilot group as saying:

"It looks like a cover-up to me. I think Mantell did just what he said he would -- closed in on the thing. I think he either collided with it or more likely they knocked him out of the air. They'd think he was trying to bring them down, barging in like that."

Keyhoe did not further identify "they." Nor, of course, has anyone else.

The air force's understandable inability to put its finger exactly on the cause of the crash has since served only to cement the conviction of flying saucer disciples that Mantell will be remembered in the future as the first American to die in such combat.

At first the air force advanced the theory Mantell probably was chasing a large, silvery meteorological balloon used in the study of cosmic rays, and, in following it too long, reached a height which produced unconsciousness or death from lack of oxygen.

Later it was suggested that Mantell might have been chasing a rare daytime reflection of the planet Venus, and eventually suffered the same lack of air. Finally, 15 months after the death, a spokesman for the air force's Project Saucer said, "The mysterious object which the flyer chased to his death is still unidentified."

Col. Harold E. Watson, saucer scare authority and A-2 for the air force air material command, told me recently that the only plausible explanation of the crash was that Mantell's plane went into a spin or power dive with an unconscious or dead man at the controls.

"Mr. Keyhoe wrote that, in view of the fact that the wreckage was scattered over an area or half a mile, it obviously had disintegrated in mid-air," Watson recalled at our Pentagon meeting.

"A B-29 that disintegrated at 30,000 feet spread its wreckage over a 20-mile area. If the F-51 had collided with something or been shot up, it would have spread itself over a much greater land area than half a mile."

Neither Watson nor anyone else can give a complete answer to much other testimony presented to the air force by a great cross-section of alleged observers of flying saucers.

The air force therefore has had to close its books on several dozen cases, including the disclosures by an Eastern airliner crew July 24, 1948, and a national guard lieutenant Oct. 1, 1948.

The Eastern crew reported at 2:45 a.m. (an hour after a flaming object was observed over Robbins field, Macon, Ga.) that a big, wingless thing, glowing like a magnesium flare, shot past its DC-3 near Montgomery, Ala.

According to the pilot, Clarence S. Chiles, former ATC man, and co-pilot John B. Whitted, a B-29 pilot in the war, the fiery-tailed thing passed the airliner and shot up out of sight into an overcast at nearly 700 m.p.h. -- "its jet or prop wash rocking our DC-3." One passenger partly corroborated the pilots' story.

National Guard Lt. George F. Gorman described, the following October, a "dogfight" he waged one night over Fargo with an indefinable light which he estimated to be about six or eight inches in diameter.

At the time, the air force spoke of hallucinations or weather balloons, flares, fireballs, meteorites and the like. It still does.

But its inability to explain away decisively the testimony of admittedly responsible airmen has caused it to become the goat or villain of many a saucer adventure.

It finds itself accused of withholding from the public what would be the most momentous news in history -- the existence of interplanetary flight.

In his best-selling book "Behind the Flying Saucers", Frank Scully charges that the air force has seized several flying saucers that landed in the U.S. and the charred remains of 18 midgets from Venus.

In weary response, the air force asks for concrete evidence. It says it will settle for any part of a saucer. Several organizations, including the Saturday Review of Literature, have offered huge sums to any saucer-believer who can prove the existence of such craft.

To date, there have been no takers.

"If the air force had solved the so-called saucer principle of flight," the well-decorated colonel asked me, "don't you imagine we would have used the system in Korea?"

Watson's group, which instigates investigations of all saucer reports not instantly spotted as coming from misguided persons or obvious cranks, has made a close study of all photographs purporting to have been taken of such craft.

Some have turned out to be trash can lids twirled into the sky and photographed by pranksters. Others are curious cloud or smoke formations. Some are weather balloons, others aircraft reflecting the sun.

During our talk at the Pentagon, Watson took a sequence of three photographs from his confidential saucer inquiry file and let me examine them. They were enlargements from a bit of movie film on which the manager of the great Falls, Mont., baseball club was said to have recorded flight of two saucers.

Shortly after it was revealed by the Great Falls Leader that Manager Nick Mariana had seen and filmed saucers in action, the air force office of special investigation rushed agents to Montana for Mariana's story and film.

It turned out to be 15 feet of black and white (not color, as originally reported) made around 11:30 a.m. on the clear morning of Aug. 15. This is the story investigators derived from Mariana:

He was standing in the grandstand of the ball park, talking to Virginia Raunig, team secretary, when he noticed two fast-flying and brilliant spots in "the deep blue Montana sky."

He ran out of the stands, gained the street, unlocked his car, took out his camera, ran back to the stands, adjusted it and shot the 15 feet. According to the investigator's report, he estimated that this took him 20 seconds.

The enlarged film showed two bright dots which advanced toward and over a water tower in the foreground.

"Mr. Mariana had to shoot into the sun, you'll notice," Watson pointed out. "The spots are sun reflections off the water tower."

"But he swears he saw two bright objects going through the air at about 350 miles an hour, before he ran for his camera," I reminded him.

"He did," the colonel said, turning over another page in his file.

Then he read a report from the operations office of the Great Falls airbase. Two F-84s (air force jets with a top speed of 600 m.p.h.) landed at the nearby airport at 11:33 a.m.

(Tomorrow: the saucer pranksters.)

* * *

Jokes, Mistakes Figure in Spread of Saucer Legend

This is the last of four articles on the subject "Flying Saucers -- Myth or Mystery?"

By Bob Considine
INS Correspondent

Last June 19 the air force air materiel command, the arm of the government which has the tedious task of running down every flying saucer clue but has no power to arrest practical jokers who bombard it with false alarms, received a letter from one Martin W. Peterson of Warren, Minn.

Postmarked Cincinnati, the letter told of a man named Walter Sirek, also of Warren, who had in his possession what must be a junior-sized flying saucer.

For proof, Peterson enclosed several snapshots of his fiend holding on his knee a bizarre object with a saucer-like body from two of whose thin sides protruded what looked like the tip of a spear and the fins and exhaust pipe of a midget V-2.

Into action went the investigative arms of the air force, at the customary expense of the taxpayer.

It took some time for the agents to learn that Peterson was a native of Warren and mailed his letter from Cincinnati on a visit to that city.

When Sirek was located in Warren, working at a gas station, he told the investigators he found the strange device two years before imbedded in the earth behind a place named Nish's tavern in Warren.

He hadn't taken it seriously, Sirek said. He said he figured it was made by a tinsmith named Art Jensen.

Jensen remembered that he put something of the sort together at the requests of a Warren hardware man named Ted Heyen and a radio repair man from the same city named Robert Schaeffer. An acetylene torch had been played over the tail surfaces to give it the appearance of having been scorched by escaping gases.

After having it mentioned briefly in a Warren newspaper, its owners threw it away. Sirek found it. Peterson, visiting Sirek, took some snapshots of him holding it and two years later sent them along with his letter to the air materiel command.

It took the investigative chain reaction from June 19 to Sept. 27 to run its course. Agents had to be transported from Wright field, Dayton, air materiel command, to Cincinnati to Warren -- fed, housed and paid.

When the case ended, all they had for their pains were a few apologies and the saucer -- which turned out to be made of the lid of an automatic washing machine, tin spearhead and tail assembly, engine made from a disemboweled midget radio and an old insecticide bomb -- spent.

Other gagsters have gone to the trouble of buying and assembling mounds of scrap steel and iron, burning it into an almost unrecognizable tangle and reporting to the air force that a flying saucer had crashed and burned on their property.

Tracking down such malicious work and examining the wreckage has cost the air force office of special investigation and the FBI considerable sums and the wasted time of good talent. But, according to Col. Harold E. Watson, air force saucer spokesman, nothing can be done about it.

The air force vigorously and sometimes vehemently denies existence of flying saucers, either of earthly or interplanetary origin.

But, since it is charged with defense of the skies, it often feels duty bound to look into cases which on their face value would be rejected as too improbable by the editor of "Weird Comics."

It did not, however, look too deeply into two recent tips solemnly presented to the air materiel command.

One of these, presented jointly by man and wife, swore that they were taking a walk in a woods together not long ago and saw a "flying saucer moving about in the thick, tall pines."

An investigator asked them to estimate how far away it was from them. They said, "about two or three miles." The investigator clapped on his hat and went home.

In the other case, an Ohio farmer excitedly called in a vivid description of what he called two huge flying saucers which raced out of the stratosphere, hovered over two small islands in a lake near his home, lowered eight angular steel legs from each saucer, scooped up samples of earth and sped away. "After tucking in the 16 legs," he added.

A brief inquiry in the man's village showed that he had been released two weeks before from an insane asylum.

There is no doubt in the air force mind that many honest persons have dutifully reported what they solemnly believed to be flying saucers.

They have been misled by any one of a hundred causes that have nothing to do with the supernatural.

Their eyes have played tricks on them, as eyes will. They have been subtly influenced by the international tension and stories of new and wondrous aircraft in process of development.

They have been misled by the tricks of our atmosphere which on hot days, for instance, can make the motorist believe he is approaching a shallow lake in the road ahead.

Nature can fling a bolt of neon or fluorescent-type light across the night skies at fantastic speed, or make it seem to hover as if in a tube.

A vast majority of human beings recognize this as the aurora, but a new and stubborn belief in many persons that flying saucers indeed exist prompts them to regard these flitting lights as craft that have both substance and menace.

At such peaks of flying saucer interest as we and other nations, especially England, are reaching, a certain covetousness enters the picture and further distorts it.

The neighbor of a man who had had his name in the newspapers as one who saw a flying saucer will envy him his notoriety and wish to get for himself the same attention. Once this wish is put in action, it does not take him long to see a flying saucer.

As a matter of fact, the envious neighbor (or anyone else) can see a host of flying saucers simply by looking a bit too long at a sun and then looking to another part of the sky. Red corpuscles flitting past the retina of the eyes supply the mirage. A slight touch of dyspepsia also helps the eager watcher for saucers.

The first F-51 pilots perhaps saw more saucers than any other group of Americans. Not only that, but they saw whole farms or sections of cities floating through the air above them.

"So we did something about the plastic canopy that enclosed the pilots," Watson told me with a smile. "Changed the angle of it a bit and it stopped picking up reflections.

"Try to get this over to the people -- there aren't any flying saucers. There weren't any little men. There weren't any magnetic scientists who examined fallen flying saucers in Arizona and New Mexico or any place else.

"Neither the air force nor the navy has built anything resembling the things described by people who swear they've seen flying saucers. And no power on this planet or any other is sending this kind of craft against us, or any other kind of craft.

"There just ain't no such animal."

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1. The complete story of Frank Scully, Silas Newton, and "Dr. Gee" and their tale of crashed discs and alien bodies is covered in Spotlight 1952: Anatomy of a Hoax parts one through eleven, available through the "Past Weeks" portal.

2. Although his book, Behind the Flying Saucers, had been published just weeks before Scully's interview, new details not found in the book or any of Scully's writings made themselves evident. One such was Scully's assertion that Newton and "Dr. Gee" had "shown me detailed blueprints of three flying saucers".

Scully's story also changed from the book in at least one significant instance. In the interview above Scully says...

Scientists and military observers were able to enter the small ship through the opened door, and they got into one of the larger ships through the broken glass-like observation platform. The third ship was so very solid and sound they could find no means of forcing entry. Just by chance somebody shined a flashlight through a top observation window which caused a door to spring open. Thus they entered and were able to study many mysteries which had confronted them.

But Behind the Flying Saucers makes no mention of a "broken glass-like observation platform" on any of the crashed discs, nor of any entry through such, nor of any flashlight causing any door to open (the word flashlight appears nowhere in the entire tome), and Scully has "Dr. Gee" -- the only person who actually claimed to have been personally involved in any of the incidents -- saying only...

"Apparently there was no door to what unquestionably was the cabin. The outside surface showed no marking of any sort, except for a broken porthole, which appeared on first examination to be of glass. On closer examination we found it was a good deal different from any glass in this country. Finally, we took a large pole and rammed a hole through this defect in the ship.

"Having done this, we looked into the interior. There we were able to count sixteen bodies, that ranged in height from about 36 to 42 inches.

"We assumed that there must be a door of some kind, unless these people had been hermetically sealed in a pressurized cabin, so we prodded around with the pole which we had used to push through the opening made through the broken porthole, and on the opposite side from the broken porthole, we hit a knob; or a double knob, to be exact. When we pushed against that double knob, to our amazement and surprise, a door flew open. This enabled us to get into the ship."

4. The interview notes...

The California author says his "Behind the Flying Saucers" is the first book to explain in simple language the principles of magnetic force -- material which Scully gleaned in turn from an as-yet-unpublished book on the subject, five years in preparation by university scientists in the United States and members of the government's project in this field.

Typical of Scully's extravagant yet vague claims, the existence of the unnamed book has never been verified. Nor have the alleged "blueprints" Scully says were given to him ever publicly shared, nor have the "sober aircraft experts who have examined them" who "say they are entirely feasible" been named or publicly made themselves known.

5. Scully's claim that Captain Thomas Mantell's ship was "frozen in the air when he approached the saucer" is unsupported by any of the extensive Air Force internal investigative reports or published newspaper reports, then or since. Nor did Scully ever offer any supporting evidence for such an assertion.

6. In the series by Bob Considine, Col. Watson's statement...

I don't know how to make it plainer than this: The air force has in its possession no flying saucers, or parts of flying saucers. It has no bodies of 'little men' nor any samples of the so-called clothes these imaginary creatures wore. It has investigated hundreds of rumors without finding an iota of responsible supporting testimony or a shred of evidence.

...was printed in some newspapers as either bolded or in all-capital letters.

7. Considine's recap of the events surrounding Rudy Fick, George Koehler, Morley B. Davies, et. al, while overall fairly accurate, did contain some major inaccuracies. Details of those events can be found in Part One of Spotlight 1952: Anatomy of a Hoax, available through the "Past Weeks" portal. Considine also considerably exaggerated the time and cost of the investigation when he states...

After six months of costly work, which sorely immobilized officers and agents who had been trained for more realistic work at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars, the file on the little men was closed and the ludicrous story ended with several of the principals refusing to answer investigators on constitutional grounds.

In fact various Air Force investigators operating out of Air Force bases local to whatever event was being investigated did so only in the course of their normal duties, and only occasionally over a period of months, at what would represent a tiny fraction of the cost asserted by Considine.

8. The story of Captain Mantell will be reviewed in depth as part of a future series

9. Considine is in error when he states that the Mariana film was "15 feet of black and white (not color, as originally reported)"...

Mariana's story will be reviewed in detail in a future series.

10. The photos of Walter Sirek are found in the declassified files of Project Blue Book with the face covered...

Walter Sirek


The Arrival

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