The Presidents and UFOs: A Secret History from FDR to Obama by Larry Holcombe is an extensive look into the history of UFOs in the United States and the secrets hidden by the country's presidents (available March 17, 2015).
The UFO enigma has been part of our culture since the 1940s and building to a worldwide explosion of acceptance today. Now, as governments around the world open their files and records on internal UFO investigations, the US remains steadfast in its denial of interest in the UFO issue. As more of the world's population accepts the possibility of an extraterrestrial presence, the demand is building for disclosure from the United States.
Using newly declassified and Freedom of Information Act documents, eyewitness accounts, interviews, and leaked documents being authenticated, the secret history of UFOs and the corresponding presidential administrations are detailed. Starting in 1941 with the Roosevelt administration, the book examines the startling discoveries facing a president preoccupied by WWII, the explosion of UFO sightings during the Truman years, first contact during the Eisenhower administration, and the possibility of a UFO connection to the Kennedy assassination. In 1975, the Nixon administration came very close to admitting that UFOs exist by funding a documentary by Robert Emenegger. Almost 40 years later, this book will examine Emenegger's findings.
For the first time, the involvement of all of the modern presidents up to and including President Obama, and the rise and then fall of their influence on UFO issues, are told in one story that is an integral part of the fascinating UFO tapestry.
The Roosevelt and Truman Admistrations
The UFO/flying saucer phenomenon is a complex story with issues that run in many directions like the roots of a huge tree. The complexity of the story requires years of study to understand the true nature of the phenomenon. This fact makes it impossible for the casual observer to grasp the importance and enormity of the issue.
The subject is considered with varying levels of concern by every government around the world. It is a serious scientific subject that the United States government, for a number of reasons, has effectively debunked and ridiculed for the last sixty years. It is a phenomenon that is part of nature, a part of the universe. It is not a secret Department of Defense project, yet it is being handled by the government as if it were.
This book will examine the role the U.S. presidents played as this fascinating scientific saga began to unfold in the post–World War II era and the reasons for the extreme and continued secrecy. In telling the story of presidential involvement in UFO issues, the book will also educate the casual observer, the skeptic, and the agnostic about the very complex and complicated big picture of the UFO phenomenon in a simple and understandable manner. It will attempt to separate the wheat from the chaff of a complex subject that is riddled with inaccuracies, poor research, disinformation, a lack of logic, and blatant lies.
In discussing the UFO phenomenon with people I call the “casual observer,” that is, people who have an interest in the subject but have not studied it in any depth, I am often asked what makes me so sure that UFOs actually exist? My reply is simple: There is a literal mountain of evidence that has accumulated for the last seventy-plus years that, when viewed as a whole, is indisputable that the UFO phenomenon is real and that objects or craft of unknown origin have the capability to fly in our atmosphere in a manner that defies known physical laws. This book will give snapshot versions of some major UFO events. By viewing the phenomenon using the presidential background for these events, we will show how the government has handled or mishandled the most important scientific subject in the history of mankind. The UFO events discussed in this book represent but a tiny fraction of legitimate UFO events that occurred over the last sixty-plus years. They were selected because of their quality, importance, and possible impact on national security.
Hopefully after the reader completes this work, he or she will at least have a flavor of the mountain of evidence proving UFOs exist and the government’s continuing efforts to conceal this important scientific subject from the general population.
Before beginning this journey the reader is asked to consider the following:
1. In today’s culture the abbreviation, “UFO” is generally understood to mean extraterrestrial spacecraft. The accurate definition of a UFO is a flying object that the observer is unable to identify. Most UFOs are NOT extraterrestrial spacecraft but merely misidentification of some prosaic object or in many cases classified and experimental military aircraft. A true UFO as discussed in this book is an object that, when observed from a reasonable distance and perspective, defies conventional explanations. They appear to be intelligently controlled, and perform aerial maneuvers that defy the known laws of physics. They can hover and accelerate at tremendous speeds, both laterally and vertically, make flat right-angle turns, and stop instantly from incredible speeds. A UFO by definition does not have to be an extraterrestrial craft. It may well be, and it’s my personal opinion that some are extraterrestrial. There is a huge accumulation of evidence that points in that direction, but as yet that has not been proven to be fact. In this book when referring to UFOs, the reference is to true UFOs and may also be referred to as UFOs/flying saucers.
2. UFOs exist: The accumulation of evidence is so great that no reasonable person can any longer deny their existence. To quote the Honorable Paul Heller, former Canadian minister of defense, “They are as real as the airplanes that fly over your head.” (Heller, 2005)
3. The most common argument by skeptics and debunkers is that the government is unable to keep secrets. It is of utmost importance for the reader to understand that the government of the United States can and does keep secrets. The argument is that a story so big could not be kept secret for any length of time. That cry has been heard from the beginning of the UFO phenomenon. It is totally incorrect. The intelligence community and the military are accustomed and well qualified in keeping secrets that involve national security and military hardware, and the darker the secret, the more secure it is. Political secrets are completely different; they rarely can be kept. For that reason politicians are almost never privy to black projects that involve national security or the military. The Manhattan Project is the perfect example. For ten years, over fifty thousand people worked on the development of the atomic bomb and no one in Congress knew they existed until they were dropped on Japan. It was eight days after the death of Franklin Roosevelt before Harry Truman knew they existed.
4. Finally, the reader is asked to understand the basic concept of UFO sightings. People who study and research these sightings agree that most sightings can usually be explained as something normal, natural, and terrestrial. This includes military black or secret projects. The number of true unexplained UFO sightings is generally thought to be in the area of 5 percent of all reported sightings, and for every reported sighting, either explainable or not, there are probably ten, and probably many more, that go unreported. This unfortunate fact will be discussed in the final chapter.
When researchers lecture on the UFO phenomenon, this fact is always pointed out to the audience. Though factual, I believe it gives a false understanding to the casual observer. Simply stated, if the casual observer hears that of all reported UFO sightings, 95 percent can be explained, then the normal thought process is that more study on the remaining 5 percent would explain those as well. I feel this approach dilutes the importance of what I consider 100 percent of legitimate UFO sightings made by competent trained observers of sightings as outlined in number one, above. With this in mind I believe UFO sightings should be viewed in two distinct groups. Group number one would be UFO sightings that when studied can be explained as something conventional. Group two would be high-quality sightings made by competent observers that when studied offer no conventional explanation.
In the fifty-plus years since Donald Keyhoe introduced me to flying saucers, the Air Force and the United States government have publicly stated that UFOs are simply misidentified natural or conventional objects. Officially they stated that these objects pose no threat to national security, even though reports of UFOs stalking airliners, causing many to take evasive action, have steadily increased. UFOs have been reported over major airports and military installations, especially nuclear installations. Reports from credible witnesses, such as pilots and police officers, have mounted. Some reports by multiple witnesses with trace evidence and radar backup were so startling and well documented that the attempted debunking explanations were more bizarre and unbelievable than the theory that they were extraterrestrial. A few reports, such as Japan Airlines Flight 1628’s UFO encounter over Alaska, slipped through the cracks and made world news before the U.S. government could cover up the story.
Finally, countries around the world started to see the folly in continued UFO secrecy. Many began to relax their internal UFO security and open their files. The release of previously highly classified files of UFO incidents by foreign governments, or files secured from the U.S. through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), freed many who were involved in the incidents and bound by their security clearance to tell their stories. The stories began coming in from very creditable people. Air Force Capt. Robert Salas, a launch control officer at an ICBM installation at Malmtrom Air Force Base, was one of these people. He related a fantastic story of a UFO hovering over the installation’s front gate, shutting down all of their ready ICBMs. Stories also came from pilots such as Dr. Milton Torres, USAF, stationed in England in the 1950s, who was ordered to shoot down a huge UFO (the size of an aircraft carrier according to Torres) orbiting over the English countryside before the craft shot away at over ten thousand miles per hour. Or Gen. Parviz Jafari of the Iranian air force who had a remarkable UFO encounter over Tehran in 1976 flying a U.S.-made F-4 Phantom. Countries around the globe—the U.K., Belgium, France (with their COMETA Report), Russia, Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Australia, and many more—began to release tight UFO secrecy and open their files, while the U.S. was left standing alone in denial of a UFO presence that demanded scientific study.
THE ROOSEVELT YEARS
On the night before Halloween, October 30, 1938, the CBS radio network’s Mercury Theater on the Air broadcast Orson Welles’s adaptation of the H. G. Wells novel, The War of the Worlds. The show ran as a musical program interspersed with simulated bulletins about an invasion of Martians near the town of Grover’s Mill, New Jersey. At the beginning, at intermission, and at the end of the broadcast the listening audience was told that the program was a work of fiction. Nevertheless a great number of people tuned in missing the disclaimer and thought the Earth was being attacked by invading aliens from Mars.
Although historical studies of this famous broadcast have shown that the ensuing panic caused by the broadcast was greatly overstated by the press, still hundreds of thousands of people were genuinely frightened by the show. There was widespread negative reaction resulting in lawsuits and some sanctions imposed on future broadcasts by CBS.
This broadcast and the thousands of newspaper articles that followed imprinted in the psyche of the population the notion that you can fool me once but not twice. Hence, as news reports of unknown flying objects started to appear in the press in the 1940s, the public was largely unimpressed. The War of the Worlds was no longer frightening, but a world at war was.
For the first half of the 1940s the population was consumed with the war effort and gave little thought to mysterious aerial craft or extraterrestrial life. This was not the case for our government and military. Recently leaked top-secret documents tell of the government’s retrieval of extraterrestrial craft going back to 1941, and the ensuing deep involvement in efforts to unravel the mysteries of these visitors from other worlds.
Pilot Kenneth Arnold’s Washington State sighting of a daisy chain of flying discs near Mount Rainier in 1947 is generally considered the beginning of the modern era of flying saucer/UFO encounters. However, in the mid-1990s, documents surfaced that indicate a crash and retrieval of an alien craft may have occurred near Cape Girardeau, Missouri, in the spring of 1941. The story first surfaced in a letter from Charlette Mann to UFO researcher Leonard Stringfield (Good, 2007). The letter recounted how her grandfather, William Huffman, a Baptist minister, had been summoned one spring evening in 1941 to the site of a plane crash some fifteen miles from Cape Girardeau. He was requested to offer prayers for injured or dead occupants of the plane. Arriving at the site, he discovered not a plane but a circular craft and three dead small humanoid occupants. Also present at the crash site were several police officers, firemen, and photographers. Huffman said a prayer for the dead creatures just before the military arrived and took control. All photographic film was confiscated by the military, who advised the group that what they witnessed was a matter of great national security. They were admonished to never speak of the event to anyone. Returning home, in a state of shock, Huffman related the event to his wife, then told her she must never repeat the story. Many years later when the grandmother was dying from cancer, Charlette Mann succeeded in getting her to tell the story, a story Charlette had heard whispered about within the family for many years.
Less than one year after the Cape Girardeau crash, the famous L.A. air raid took place. The event is important because it is the first indication of presidential involvement in the UFO issue. According to a leaked memo from Franklin D. Roosevelt to Gen. George C. Marshall, dated February 27, 1942, two days after the Los Angeles air raid (in reply to a memo from Marshall on the air raid), the president obviously makes reference to a previous crash retrieval. The memo reads as follows:
I have considered the disposition of the material in possession of the Army that may be of great significance toward the development of a super weapon of war. I disagree with the argument that such information should be shared with our ally the Soviet Union. Consultation with Dr. Bush and other scientists on the issue of finding practical uses for the atomic secrets learned from the study of celestial devices precludes any further discussion and I therefore authorize Dr. Bush to proceed with the project without further delay. The information is vital to the nation’s superiority and must remain within the confines of state secrets. Any further discussion on the matter will be restricted to General Donavan, Dr. Bush, the secretary of war, and yourself. The challenge our nation faces is daunting and perilous in this undertaking and I have committed the resources of the government towards that end. You have my assurance that when circumstances are favorable and we are victorious, the Army will have the fruits of research in exploring further applications of this new wonder. — FDR
This document, along with a number of others, was leaked to UFO researcher Tim Cooper in California. Cooper became interested in the Roswell incident and made inquiries about it to a number of retired military officers living near him. Apparently his inquiries resulted in the anonymous leaking of these documents. Cooper made contact with well-known UFO investigator and nuclear physicist Stanton T. Friedman, and sent him copies of the documents. Friedman, a staunch believer in an extraterrestrial presence, yet a skeptic when looking at startling new revelations, needed to check Cooper’s credibility. He contacted friend and former McDonnell Douglas executive, Dr. Robert Wood, who was living in California, and asked Wood to check out Cooper. At McDonnell Douglas, Wood headed a team that quietly studied the UFO phenomenon using Friedman as a consultant. After retirement, Wood continued his investigation into UFO issues. Time spent checking out Cooper and reviewing the leaked documents resulted in Wood focusing his future efforts on the authentication of UFO-related documents. Of particular interest were the MJ-12 documents, which will be covered in later chapters.
Another leaked document, dated March 5, 1942, from George C. Marshall to the president states in part:
Regarding the air raid over Los Angeles it was learned by Army G2 that Rear Admiral Anderson has informed the War Department of a naval recovery of an unidentified airplane off the coast of California with no bearing on conventional explanation. Further it has been revealed that the Army Air Corps has also recovered a similar craft in the San Bernardino Mountains east of Los Angeles which cannot be identified as conventional aircraft. This Headquarters has come to the determination that the mystery airplanes are in fact not earthly and according to secret intelligence sources they are in all probability of interplanetary origin. As a consequence I have issued orders to Army G2 that a special intelligence unit be created to further investigate the phenomenon and report any significant connection between recent incidents and those collected by the director of the office of Coordinator of Information. —G. C. Marshall
These two documents continue to be studied by the Wood team and at present carry a mid–high level of authenticity rating on their Web site. If authentic, these two explosive documents reveal that the government knew of an extraterrestrial presence as early as the spring of 1941. Roosevelt, in his memo, referred to “celestial devices” in the “possession of the Army,” which, by this time line, would exclude the L.A. air raid recoveries. His reference was probably to the Cape Girardeau recovery, or possibly a Louisiana recovery referred to in an FBI memo from J. Edgar Hoover. In his memo, Hoover mentioned a disc recovered in “La” and lamented that it was “grabbed by the Army.”
There is one other Roosevelt memo of special interest that is under study for authentication: the Roosevelt memo to the Special Committee on Non-Terrestrial Science and Technology. In this memo he discussed “coming to grips with the reality that our planet is not the only one harboring intelligent life in the universe.” He goes on to say that “we will take every advantage of such wonders that have come to us after we have won the war.” These are clearly references to recovered alien spacecraft and associated technology.
If these documents are genuine, the knowledge of the existence of an extraterrestrial presence goes back prior to the United States’ entry into World War II, which makes President Roosevelt the first president to face this reality. How the president was able to deal with what is certainly the most startling discovery in the history of mankind while waging a worldwide war is not clear. It is clear that President Roosevelt understood the tremendous potential for a huge leap in technology that the newfound wonders offered. He also understood the huge leap in power they would give to those that possessed the secrets. He, along with those close to him, knew that these secrets must remain within the government. Under no circumstances should they be shared with any other country. Considering that the nation was on the verge of entering a great world war against strong enemies on opposite sides of the globe, any other position would have been measured criminal and impeachable.
As we move through the story of the presidents, we will see that these early words from President Roosevelt will resonate for decades to come, setting the stage for the greatest cover-up in the history of mankind. “The information is vital to the nation’s superiority and must remain within the confines of state secrets.” Roosevelt certainly understood the ramifications of the startling discovery of an extraterrestrial presence on Earth, but he didn’t know their intentions. On the other hand, he knew well the intentions of the adversaries the country faced in Europe and Japan. He stated that these new and startling revelations must take second place to the waging of war against the Axis powers. They would be addressed after we were victorious, and when Roosevelt died they would fall directly into the lap of President Harry Truman.
THE TRUMAN YEARS
Harry Truman took the oath of office as president of the United States at 7:09 P.M. on April 12, 1945. Earlier that afternoon he had been summoned to the White House and taken to Mrs. Roosevelt’s study. As reported in the Reader’s Digest Illustrated History of WWII, Mrs. Roosevelt stepped forward and quietly said, “Harry, the president is dead.” Truman, shocked, replied, “Is there anything I can do for you?” Mrs. Roosevelt said, “Is there anything we can do for you? For you are the one in trouble now.”
That exchange, repeated many times by authors and historians, still doesn’t convey the extent of the enormous vacuum that Harry Truman was about to enter. Truman, a former Midwestern farmer and failed haberdasher, who was viewed by many as a man of mediocrity, was about to attempt to fill the great void left by a man from wealth and privilege who many saw not only as larger than life but also as a savior. If these circumstances intimidated the new president, the intimidation didn’t last long. On May 7, Germany surrendered and Truman proudly proclaimed May 8 V-E Day. In July he traveled to Potsdam to meet with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin of the Soviet Union. On his way home from Potsdam, Truman gave the order to drop the first atomic bomb on Japan, and three days later to drop the second. He oversaw the rebuilding and recovery from the effects of the great world war. He initiated the Fair Deal that extended FDR’s New Deal and the Truman Doctrine. His administration oversaw the Berlin Airlift that marked the beginning of the Cold War, the organization of the United Nations, the formation of NATO, the unification of the armed services, the beginning of the Korean War, and the firing of Gen. Douglas MacArthur.
It’s clear Harry Truman faced, and would face in the future, national and world events that would change the course of history. Perhaps no other president has presided over such a time of enormous change. It was the birth of the atomic age coupled with the threat of the Cold War. The country—and the world—were growing up and Harry Truman, Midwestern haberdasher, was now leading the free world into an uncertain future. The momentous events listed above have been well chronicled by historians over the last sixty years. It now seems astonishing that the new president also had to address the possibility of the most monumental event in human history: the existence of an extraterrestrial presence of unknown purpose or origin. Truman had to deal with the fact that objects could violate the airspace of sovereign nations and fly into and out of our most sensitive areas while the military was powerless to stop the incursions. He had to deal with this knowledge while keeping it a closely guarded secret.
It is amazing that in the past sixty years no historian has added this important issue to the highlights of the Truman administration, considering the issue made headlines numbers of times. At one press conference Truman acknowledged that what were then called flying saucers were discussed at White House meetings. This is another example of the depth of the stigma of UFOs in academia. Scholars avoid any mention of the subject for fear that their work would not be considered credible.
Harry Truman was an honest, moral, and God-fearing man who was not afraid to make decisions and live with them. In World War I, Truman was an artillery captain who was highly thought of by the men under him. He was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1934. During World War II he gained prominence as the head of a committee that exposed fraud in wartime contracts. He was not fearful or faint of heart, and he accepted challenges that were in the public interest. He was also feisty when crossed, had a taste for bourbon whiskey, and could have a salty tongue when necessary. After firing the general of the Army, Douglas MacArthur, and listening to his speech before a joint session of Congress on television, Truman summed up the speech with little elegance. “With all the carrying on and the damn fool congressmen crying like a bunch of women, it was still one hundred percent bullshit” (Manchester 1979).
Truman had another attribute that served him well as president. He understood the need for security. He knew better than any other president, with the possible exception of Eisenhower, how to implement and maintain it. This was bolstered by the fact that he did not have a large ego that required constant inflation by excessive verbal discourse. For these reasons he may have been the perfect president to address the new phenomenon of flying saucers.
For the sake of clarity, a moment should be taken to address the terms “flying saucers” and “UFOs” and how they are used in this book. The term “flying saucer” originated when a newspaper reporter used it to describe what is commonly thought to be the first modern public knowledge of a UFO sighting. That was in June 1947 and made by Kenneth Arnold in Washington State. He described the objects he saw flying near Mount Rainier as looking like saucers skipping across water. The reporter used the term “flying saucer” in his article and the name stuck. In 1952 the broader term of “unidentified flying object” (UFO) was coined to cover the increasing number of different-shaped objects being reported. Discussing the Truman years in this book, the term “flying saucer” will be used, since it is the term used in that time period. In more recent years some UFOlogists, most notably well-known researcher Stanton T. Friedman, use “UFO” to describe all reported unknown objects, and “flying saucer” to distinguish extraterrestrial craft from terrestrial UFOs.
It is known that a number of well-reported flying saucer events took place during the Truman administration. However, memos and correspondence from or to the White House on the subject are difficult to find to the point of being all but nonexistent. One reason for this is Truman’s excellent ability to maintain security. His correspondence and that of his assistants are vague, cryptic, and use an economy of words. The list of those inside the loop of knowledge concerning flying saucers who would have received memos was small; it included Secretary of State Gen. George C. Marshall, Gen. Nathan Twining, Gen. Hoyt Vandenberg, James Forrestal, and Dr. Vannevar Bush, to name a few. A good example of a vague memo is the well-known Truman-Forrestal Memo that read:
Dear Secretary Forrestal:
As per our recent conversation on this matter, you are hereby authorized to proceed with all due caution upon your undertaking. Hereafter this matter shall only be referred to as Operation Majestic Twelve.
It continues to be my opinion that any future considerations relative to the ultimate disposition of this matter should rest solely with the Office of the President following appropriate discussions with you, Dr. Bush and the Director of Central Intelligence.(See Appendix A.)
The memorandum was on White House stationery, stamped “top secret eyes only” and signed by Truman. The matter referenced in the memo was the investigation of flying saucers. It was established of a group of six high-ranking military officers and six highly esteemed scientists to study the flying saucer phenomenon. With high-security matters such as these, secure meetings covered the details, which were almost never put into print. The reason for this is that official documents live forever and can get into the wrong hands. Also, they are prepared by secretaries who, although holding a high-level security clearance, are nevertheless outside of the need to know. President Truman would not divulge his knowledge of a subject when asking for briefings on that particular subject from a person outside the circle of knowledge. He could be the consummate poker player in covering his knowledge and true feelings about a sensitive subject. This has led some UFO researchers to the belief that Truman’s feelings about flying saucers were the same as his feelings toward MacArthur’s speech to Congress. That is exactly how Truman wanted it.
Truman’s Air Force aide, Gen. Robert Landry, tells of Truman’s flying saucer interest in an oral history the general did for Columbia University. Landry explains how he was summoned to the Oval Office shortly after being appointed to the position and questioned by the president on his knowledge and thoughts on flying saucers. Truman went on to say that he hadn’t given much serious thought to the subject. However, if there was any possible threat to national security, he wanted to be informed. He requested to be updated every three months with CIA information and sooner if new developments warranted such (Dolan 2002). Briefings were to be verbal, nothing written; again, the consummate poker player never revealing what he knew to Landry while looking for new intelligence.
Truman was certainly briefed on the events and recoveries that took place during the Roosevelt administration. He knew that our best scientists were at work trying to unlock the secrets of these newly discovered wonders. He was not concerned with the technical aspect of these discoveries, knowing he would be informed of any resulting practical applications from the scientific study. His concern was in the broader area of the motives and intentions of these otherworldly visitors and what the future held. It was in this area that he required up-to-date intelligence while maintaining absolute security.
Starting in 1947 the country, and especially the Southwest, saw a surge in flying saucer sightings, especially around areas involved in nuclear or rocket testing. A number of persons who worked on those early projects have come forward in their later years to say that the sightings of mystery craft came to be expected at every test and were eventually all but ignored. From 1947 until early 1953, and the debunking initiatives of the Robertson Panel, there was a dramatic increase in sightings and press coverage. The Truman administration had to deal with some of the most dramatic sightings and encounters in all of UFOlogy, both behind the scenes and in public.
THE ROSWELL INCIDENT
The crash at Corona, New Mexico—about seventy miles from Roswell—is arguably the most important event in UFOlogy. It has been well covered by numerous books and television specials, so the event will not be covered in depth here. However, so much has been written about the incident that the very important basic facts can be overlooked and lost in the minutiae. For this reason, it is necessary to review some important factual details. In looking at these details the following facts should be kept in mind:
1. The Army outfit that recovered the crash debris was the 509th Bomb Wing stationed at Roswell Army Air Field. The 509th was the group that dropped both atomic bombs on Japan. It was the most elite bombing wing on earth.
2. The officer first sent to investigate the wreckage was Maj. Jesse Marcel, the chief intelligence officer for the 509th.
3. When the wreckage was retrieved and taken to Roswell Army Air Field, Col. William Blanchard, base commander, authorized the base public information officer, Walter Haut, to issue a press release stating that the base had recovered a “flying disc,” as they were also called at the time.
4. The press release created a worldwide uproar.
5. Debris from the crash was ordered to be loaded on a bomber and flown to Fort Worth Army Air Field, home of the Eighth Air Force, and commanded by Gen. Roger Ramey.
6. General Ramey’s chief of staff, Col. Thomas Jefferson Dubose, got a call at Eighth Air Force headquarters from the deputy commander of the Strategic Air Command, Gen. Clements McMullen, at the Pentagon. McMullen told Dubose to kill the crashed “disc” story and send the crash debris to him in Washington, D.C. He would then put it on his personal plane and fly it to Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio, for investigation.
7. General Ramey quickly called a press conference to advise that Colonel Blanchard and Major Marcel had been mistaken and the debris found on the ranch was of a weather balloon and RAWIN radar reflectors.
The history of the official position of the Air Force in 1947 was that the recovered debris was that of a weather balloon and radar reflectors, and not a crashed disc as originally reported. With this cover story in place the Roswell incident all but dropped from view until 1978, when Stanton T. Friedman stumbled across Jesse Marcel (the officer first sent to investigate the wreckage) who was retired and living in Houma, Louisina. Marcel told Friedman that the material he found at the crash site was unlike anything he had seen before. There was tinfoil-like material that could be crushed in your hand but would return to smooth flatness when released. The material couldn’t be torn, cut, or burned. There was also small beamlike material with strange marks that had the weight of balsa wood but that also couldn’t be cut, broken, or burned. Nothing Marcel saw looked faintly familiar. One would think that something would be recognizable to the chief intelligence officer of the only nuclear bomb wing in the U.S. if this was indeed a crash site of terrestrial equipment. The revelations he told Friedman resulted in several books written by Friedman and others, which revived the story and brought forth a number of firsthand witnesses—witnesses of quality who wanted to talk. The story grew and gained traction, forcing the Air Force in the mid-1990s to admit that the weather balloon was indeed a cover story, and what really crashed was a top-secret project called Project Mogul. The project was authentic and was an attempt by the U.S. to send electronic equipment aloft to listen for Soviet nuclear tests. This was accomplished by connecting radio equipment to a daisy chain of standard weather balloons and radar reflectors. There was nothing exotic or secret about the equipment, just plain vanilla weather balloons, radar reflectors made of balsa and foil, and radio equipment that (in those days) still used vacuum tubes. Admittedly there was some experimental equipment used to hold the balloons at a set altitude but nothing exotic.
We now have Air Force official story number three about what really happened outside of Roswell, New Mexico, in early July 1947. And once again the story has a number of holes. First, Gen. Nathan Twining, whose name is woven throughout the flying saucer issue during the Truman years, was found to have canceled a long-standing invitation from Boeing Aircraft in Seattle, Washington, to look over a new bomber prototype and then go fishing with friends over the Fourth of July holiday. He wrote his apologies saying that he was called to a matter of great national importance. Researcher Friedman found that Twining’s day-to-day diary entries are blank for that time period, but he located General Twining’s pilot, who allowed him to look at his flight log. The log showed that Twining flew from Wright Field on July 7 to Alamogordo, New Mexico, and returned to Ohio on July 11. The evidence that Twining flew to New Mexico because of the Roswell incident is circumstantial, but when combined with his letters and memos written after this event (which are being authenticated by the Wood team), it makes an extremely strong circumstantial case.
The size of this story has now become enormous and it stays very much alive and continues to grow. It has not been conclusively proven that an extraterrestrial craft crashed near Roswell, New Mexico, in early July 1947. However, of greater importance, the Air Force, the military, and the government have not been able to prove that it didn’t happen and they hold the evidence. When all the frivolity of this colossal story is stripped away, we are left with several important questions. Would General Twining cancel his long-standing trip to Seattle to view the mundane remains of a Project Mogul recovery? Would Gen. Clements McMullen order Project Mogul crash debris loaded into a bomber and flown to Washington when the nonclassified material could have been thrown into a dumpster (the project was classified, not the equipment)? Is it reasonable to think that the Roswell base commander and the chief intelligence officer of the most elite bomb wing in the Air Force (the only group capable of carrying and delivering atomic weapons) would not be able to recognize the remains of weather balloons, radar reflectors, and radio equipment, even experimental equipment? Would Colonel Blanchard be severely reprimanded for authorizing the release of the saucer story? Actually, Blanchard went on to become a four-star general and assistant secretary of the Air Force and would have become secretary if he had not died of a heart attack at his Pentagon desk.
The Mogul balloon story was released by the Air Force in 1994 in a report called, The Roswell Report: Fact vs. Fiction in the New Mexico Desert. The thousand-page monster report, called the “phone book” by many, went into great detail about Project Mogul but little about the actual Roswell incident. The Air Force stated that this would be their final official discussion of the Roswell incident. Two years later they issued another final official report, The Roswell Report: Case Closed.
The second publication came about primarily because there had been no discussion of alien bodies that had been reported by many over the years, and other points that the Air Force tried to clarify. First Lt. James McAndrew wrote a synopsis of balloon-research findings on Project Mogul that became the integral part of the Air Force publication. Lieutenant McAndrew did an outstanding job of giving the background on how Project Mogul originated, how it developed, the technical background of the project, the laboratories that developed it, the people involved, and so on. All of it was totally irrelevant and in some cases idiotic. The dissection of the idiocy of that report is left to others, but there is one important omission that needs to be noted. Of all the names he mentioned in the report in an effort to give it legitimacy, names that in most cases no one had heard of, he leaves out a key player: Col. Thomas Jefferson Dubose, later General Dubose, chief of staff to General Ramey. General Dubose is on record as saying he received the call from Gen. Clements McMullen, telling him to kill the disc story. General McMullen wanted to see it for himself and then put it on his personal plane and flew it to Wright Field in Ohio for investigation. Wright Field (later Wright-Patterson Air Force Base) had no interest in attempts to listen for Russian nuclear tests but it had a great interest in foreign-aircraft technology, whether it be terrestrial or extraterrestrial. As we shall see later, Wright-Patterson AFB would soon house the command of the Foreign Technology Division of the Air Force. It would become ground zero for the government’s investigation into the UFO phenomena.
The question is why was General Dubose not mentioned in the report? The simple answer is he didn’t fit the Air Force story and his character was such that he couldn’t be coerced to change his story. In view of this, the Air Force chose to simply ignore him and pretend he didn’t exist. The facts didn’t fit so they were ignored.
JESSE MARCEL AND JESSE MARCEL JR.
Although we are only covering the basics of the very complicated Roswell story, I believe it necessary to discuss the two most prominent players in the Roswell saga, father and son, Jesse Marcel and Jesse Marcel Jr.
On February 20, 1978, Stanton T. Friedman was in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to lecture at LSU. While there, he was also interviewed on a local TV station. As he waited for the last interviewer, who was late, he chatted with the station manager. In the course of the conversation the manager said, “The person you should talk to is a ham radio buddy of mine, Jesse Marcel, who lives not far from here in Houma. He handled wreckage of one of those saucers you are interested in when he was in the military.” The next day at the airport Friedman got Marcel’s phone number and called him at his home in Houma, Louisiana.
There is little doubt that Marcel had been stewing for years over being forced to lie and being made to look like a fool over the Roswell cover-up—a cover-up the Air Force finally admitted in 1994 with yet another lie. Friedman’s timing and luck in finding Marcel was spot on, and after thirty years of chewing on this injustice Marcel wanted to talk and tell his story. Unfortunately Marcel only lived for eight more years, but through Friedman and others he was able to get his story out in detail in spoken word and on video.
In a very condensed version, Marcel was sent by the 509th Bomb Group commander, Col. William Blanchard, to the Foster ranch some seventy miles from Roswell, to investigate strange debris brought into Roswell by the ranch foreman, Mac Brazel. What Marcel found is described above but what has not been reported—except in Jesse Marcel Jr.’s book, The Roswell Legacy (2008)—are a couple of important facts. First, Marcel was, in his Army career, schooled in radar and radar targets, including RAWIN radar targets at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia. He was very familiar with RAWIN targets and would recognize them immediately. Second, he was a radio buff from an early age and even built a radio receiver as a youngster. He went on to become an amateur radio operator (ham) which requires an FCC license and sophisticated radio equipment. Both weather balloons and Project Mogul used RAWIN targets and radio equipment that contained vacuum tubes that would have been easily recognizable to Major Marcel. These two points are not known or are conveniently overlooked by Roswell critics. This also disposes of another overused claim that Marcel initiated his story for fame or financial gain. The fact is that Marcel initiated nothing; he was found by Stanton Friedman through hard work and pure luck, and after thirty years of living a lie imposed on him, he was ready to clear his name.
* * *
Jesse Marcel Jr. entered the picture when his dad returned to Roswell with some of the unusual debris in his car. It was late at night and he stopped at his home in Roswell to show the material to his wife and son, who were asleep. He spread the material out in the kitchen for wife and son to see. Jesse Jr. clearly recalls the strange material. A couple of days later, after returning home from taking the debris to the Eighth Air Force headquarters in Fort Worth, Marcel told his wife and son they were to forget what they saw and never speak of it again. The lid had been clamped on the incident by the Army Air Force. Marcel never spoke of the matter again in public until being contacted by Friedman.
After his dad’s death in 1986, Marcel Jr. started to speak on the subject and advance the disclosure his dad had started eight years prior. What many forget in telling the Roswell story is that Jesse Marcel Jr. was an M.D. specializing in ear, throat, and nose medicine, as well as a colonel in the Montana National Guard who flew helicopters and was called back to active duty in the Middle East at age sixty-seven.
In July 2013, my wife and I got to meet Jesse, his daughter, and son-in-law at the Roswell festival as speakers at the International UFO Museum and Research Center. Our tables were next to each other and we got a chance to chat during the four-day event. Unfortunately, two months later we lost Jesse to a heart attack while he was reading in his Montana home. Jesse Marcel Jr. was a patriot and a hero; he will be greatly missed by all in the UFO research community.
While attending the 2013 Roswell UFO festival, an attractive older lady stopped by my table. She was using the help of a cane and as we chatted she seemed to know a lot about the Roswell event. My wife had not yet joined me and I asked this lady to come around and sit in the vacant chair as we talked. I soon found out she was Frankie Rowe, the daughter of one of the firemen, Dan Dwyer, who unofficially went to a reported crash site about thirty miles from Roswell. The fire department had been told to stand down by the military, who had taken charge.
I knew the basics of Frankie Rowe’s background and was delighted to meet her and discuss details of her story. As with all flying saucer–related stories, Frankie’s story is controversial and has its supporters and detractors. I take no side in the issue but simply report a story told by a very nice lady who claims to be a firsthand witness to certain parts of the Roswell incident.
In early July 1947, twelve-year-old Frankie Dwyer was in her home outside of Roswell when her father came in from his shift at the Roswell Fire Department. Frankie said he seemed out of sorts and started to relate a strange story to her and her mother.
The fire department had been alerted to a possible aircraft crash about thirty miles outside of town. Before they could respond, the military arrived and told them to stand down, as it would be handled by their fire-and-rescue people. Disregarding the military directive, Dwyer and several other firemen decided to go to the crash site. Upon arriving (it’s not clear if the military had arrived at the site at this point) they saw a strange, damaged unknown craft with three dead and one living humanoids about four feet tall with large heads and frail bodies. The living being seemed to be in some sort of shock and walked back and forth among the bodies and the craft. Dwyer approached the being and the being looked at him and said, “You can’t help me.” Dwyer said this was not verbal but the words were clear in his head, and it confused him. This was before, as Frankie stated to me, anyone outside of science knew anything about the possibilities of mental telepathy. Shortly thereafter they were herded from the site by the military and sent away.
A week later Frankie was in Roswell having some dental surgery, and after the surgery she stopped by her father’s fire station. A state police patrolman came by the station and said, “You won’t believe what I’ve got from that crash site last week.” He showed the firemen and Frankie pieces of the mysterious metal so often discussed in the Roswell incident. Frankie said she held a piece; it seemed to have no weight and when crumpled up in her hand it returned to its original flatness without any sign of creases or deformity. She said it had a burnished or pewter color.
Several days later men showed up at the Dwyer home stating they were from the government. Sitting at the Dwyers’ kitchen table, they told Frankie and her mother that what they’d seen and heard involved the highest levels of national security and to never speak of what they knew of this event to anyone. If they did the consequences would be great and severe. The men became threatening and said the area was vast and desolate, people could be taken and never heard from again. Frankie recalls the men as intimidating and very scary. She also remembers the tears streaking down her mother’s face as these men talked and wondering why her mother didn’t take these men to task for their threats, why her mother didn’t take up for her and protect her.
She now realizes that this was the military, and in 1947 the military, after winning World War II, was respected and viewed as all powerful. We have heard these stories over and over again from people who lived in this very desolate area of the high desert of New Mexico that just happened to be the center of our nation’s most exotic research into advanced technology. Frankie went on to say that the men had also gotten to her father and what he saw and what he told them remained a family secret until Frankie came forward with her story many years later.
Is Frankie Rowe’s story true and accurate? I’ll pass no judgment on that except to say that she is a charming lady who seems sincere in telling her story. Testimony is just the word of the witness; it is admissible in courts but without physical backup and solid evidence it will always be subject to scrutiny and have its detractors. Whatever the case, Frankie Rowe’s story is but another piece of the intriguing Roswell mystery.
In another case, there is a story the Air Force chose not to ignore but probably should have. It lends increased incredibility to their explanation for the Roswell incident. It is a story that also answers another question rarely asked or simply overlooked. What Brazel found, Major Marcel investigated, and the Air Force recovered was debris from something that crashed. Why did Colonel Blanchard authorize a press release stating that they had recovered a “flying disc” when what was found on the Foster ranch was nothing but “debris”? The next section explains that issue.
THE CRASH ON THE PLAINS OF SAN AGUSTIN
Research into the Roswell incident initially focused on the debris found by rancher Mac Brazel, foreman of the Foster ranch near Corona, New Mexico. However, a story told by state geologist Barney Barnett tells of another crash at the same time of the Corona crash. This crash was on the Plains of San Agustin, located about 70 miles west of Socorro, New Mexico, and 140 miles west of Corona. Barnett, along with a group of geology students from the East Coast studying in the area, stumbled on the wreckage. Unlike the Corona crash, this craft was relatively undamaged except for a rupture in the edge of the craft. According to Barnett, he and the students observed several small dead humanoid occupants outside the craft, and one that was still living. They appeared frail of stature and about three and a half to four feet in height. Since Jesse Marcel never mentioned that he saw bodies and since a number of eyewitnesses to the events at the Roswell Air Base speak of dead humanoid beings being brought there, the crash of a second craft seems to fit. Researcher Stanton T. Friedman believes that a collision of the two crafts may have occurred when their guidance systems were affected by the extremely strong radar systems used to track missile tests in that part of the country. The radars were left on at all times because their vacuum-tube circuits required a lengthy warm-up before they became operational.
As stated previously this subject has been covered extensively in other books and publications and will not be covered in depth here. What is important to understand in this matter is that the Air Force could have simply denied that there were any bodies of any kind in the New Mexico desert. Instead, in their 1997 report, they stated that what people actually saw was the retrieval of flight-test dummies that had been carried aloft to a hundred thousand feet in Skyhook-type balloons and dropped to research pilot ejection from aircraft at high altitudes. These tests actually did take place but there are several problems with the Air Force story. First, the dummies were human in size, about 175 pounds and six feet in height with normal features. Second, the tests didn’t start until 1953—or six years after the Roswell incident. Friedman noted, “The Air Force had apparently invented time travel for crash-test dummies” (Friedman 2005).
In their attempt to explain the Roswell incident as debris from a secret U.S. project to spy on Soviet nuclear tests, the Air Force actually discredited their story and brought additional legitimacy to the theory that an extraterrestrial craft (or crafts) crashed in the New Mexico desert in 1947. The fact is if the retrieval in July 1947 was a crashed Mogul project, there would be substantial classified paperwork of such retrieval. Since the project has been declassified, then where is that paperwork? It is not in the thousand-plus-page report and the 1997 follow-up. On the other hand, if the retrievals were of an alien craft there would be substantial paperwork still classified and not about to be released.
The Roswell incident was the first of a number of UFO cases that would confront the Truman presidency and establish the government’s handling of all future UFO issues. With Truman’s strong belief in maintaining security, the dictates he put in place relative to anything pertaining to the extraterrestrial subject would endure for years to come. It was during his presidency that the population viewed the flying saucer issue as real and of serious, even frightening, concern. Serious publications such as Life magazine published articles that leaned heavily toward the extraterrestrial hypothesis as the explanation for flying saucers. This was a concern for the Truman administration—and the more sensational the story and the wider the coverage, the greater the concern.
The Roswell incident and the three events that follow (along with many others not covered here) brought the saucer issue to a head. Government intervention was needed to defuse a situation that was headed toward hysteria.
THE THOMAS MANTELL CASE
The case of National Guard pilot Capt. Thomas Mantell was one of the most widely reported and unnerving UFO incidents in history. His death on January 7, 1948, while pursuing a strange flying object, spiked the public’s awareness of UFOs and resulted in former Marine Corps pilot and UFO investigator Maj. Donald Keyhoe bringing pressure on the Air Force to disclose accurate information on the Mantell case and the UFO issue in general. The fact that a person had died in dramatic and very mysterious circumstances that were widely reported greatly increased the public’s concern over this phenomenon.
Captain Mantell was a decorated World War II pilot who had recently left the Air Force and joined the Kentucky National Guard. On January 7, 1948, he and three other pilots were ferrying four F-51s (formerly P-51s) from Georgia to a base in Kentucky. Godman Army Air Field at Fort Knox, Kentucky, had received a report of a strange airborne object near Maysville, Kentucky, from the Kentucky State Police. Maysville was some ninety miles away and the police report said hundreds of people had seen the object moving toward Fort Knox. Reports were soon received from other areas, and a little before 2:00 P.M., personnel in the Godman tower sighted the object. It zoomed into view over the base. The base commander viewed the object through binoculars and said it appeared to have a red band at the bottom and a size of two hundred to three hundred feet in diameter. Another report from Lockbourne Air Force Base in Columbus, Ohio, said the object came within ten feet of the ground before rising rapidly to an altitude of approximately ten thousand feet at a speed over five hundred miles per hour.
Godman tower contacted flight leader Mantell and asked him to investigate the sighting. One pilot was low on fuel and continued on but the other three changed course to intercept the object that had been stationary for an hour and a half. The three planes reached about seventeen thousand feet when two of the pilots broke off due to lack of oxygen. Mantell continued on. He radioed the tower that he had spotted the object; it appeared to be metallic and was huge. His voice seemed strained. Mantell radioed in again, this time reporting the object was above him and had started climbing at about half his speed. He said, “I’ll try to close in.” Five minutes later he reported the object had increased its speed to about 360 miles per hour. Shortly after that transmission, the plane went out of control and crashed, killing Mantell.
An official Air Force investigation stated that Mantell probably blacked out from lack of oxygen while chasing the planet Venus. Although the crash caused by lack of oxygen remains extremely plausible, the theory that he was chasing the planet Venus is total idiocy. Venus at that time of day was all but invisible. A later report said that the sighting was probably a Skyhook balloon, which at that time was still classified secret. Although this is a more likely explanation, it still had problems. Skyhook balloons flew at the very high altitude of one hundred thousand feet and drifted with air currents. Mantell reported the object moving at half speed or two hundred miles per hour. Also, the reported sighting of the object was within ten feet of the ground before accelerating at a high rate of speed to twenty thousand feet which is not something a balloon can accomplish.
There are many unverified stories with this case as there are with most notable UFO sightings and encounters. It has been my belief from my own research that Mantell was probably looking at and chasing a secret Navy Skyhook balloon. However, the report from Lockbourne Air Base actually came several hours later and somewhat complicates the issue. The official Air Force position and the position of many respected UFOlogists is that the witnesses at the Lockbourne incident were looking at the planet Venus. The more I worked on the Mantell case for this book, the more troubled I became with the story. I decided to dig out Donald Keyhoe’s The Flying Saucers Are Real since he had researched the Mantell case in depth just after it occurred. In rereading the book I discovered some facts that made me question the balloon theory. First, Keyhoe had been a balloon pilot in the military, so he understood them. In the case of Skyhook balloons, they are inflated with a small amount of helium when launched. As the balloon ascends to higher altitudes, the gas expands and the balloon flattens out. This, of course, could give it the saucer appearance and is the reason it is widely accepted as what Mantell was chasing. Around a hundred thousand feet the gas bag would have swollen to about a hundred feet high and seventy feet in diameter. The instrument package under the balloon is released and comes down by parachute. The loss of weight allows the balloon to rise rapidly, where it finally explodes from expansion.
There are several problems with the Skyhook explanation uncovered by Keyhoe and verified by J. Allen Hynek. A number of reports, including from the men in the Godman tower, estimated the object to be 250 to 400 feet in diameter rather than the seventy feet of a Skyhook balloon. It was confirmed that the object was seen from areas 175 miles apart at the same time. This meant the object at one point had to be at least thirty miles high or higher. These calculations were confirmed by both Keyhoe and Hynek.
Within minutes after the Mantell crash, one of the F-51s was back in the air, refueled and with oxygen. The plane went to 33,000 feet and flew for a hundred miles but could find no trace of the object. The Air Force told Keyhoe the balloon probably dropped its instrument package and then exploded. Keyhoe felt it strange that this would occur in the few minutes the other plane was on the ground. Also, there was no sighting of a parachute or finding the instrument package. There are a number of other inconsistencies with the Mantell event, such as the object remaining stationary for an hour and a half and only starting to move when Mantell approached, that now leads me to reassess the Skyhook theory.
This is an important story that deserves more study than the constraints of this book allow. What is important for the reader to understand is that it brought great pressure on the Air Force. It created a lot of internal strife among many high-ranking officers, as Mantell was highly regarded within the service. This high-profile case stoked the fires of public unrest with the official public position of the government and in turn brought more pressure to bear on the Truman White House and his military advisers.
THE FARMINGTON ARMADA
The sightings of flying saucers were reported frequently in the late 1940s and early 1950s, especially in New Mexico and the Four Corners area. Not many made headline news, but some did. This was the case with a sighting that became known as the Farmington Armada. For three days in the middle of March 1950, between 11:00 A.M. and noon, and again later in the afternoon, a number of flying saucers were seen above the small town of Farmington, New Mexico. The daylight sighting was seen by at least half the population of the town, which at the time probably numbered three thousand or less. Reports varied on the number of objects, from as few as several to as many as five hundred, as they darted about in formation and then flashed away at incredible speeds. A local engineer did a rough triangulation on one object. He said the height was approximately twenty thousand feet; the object’s size was roughly that of two B-29 bombers, and it accelerated to a speed in excess of a thousand miles per hour.
The craft appeared to be silver in color, except for the largest of the group which acted as the leader. This craft appeared to be a red color. The objects flew at high speeds and would flip on edge at times, showing that they were saucer-shaped. One former B-29 tail gunner said that they flew in a manner that would be impossible for any known aircraft to duplicate.
The story made headline news, as it was only one hundred miles from the Los Alamos National Laboratory and White Sands where the first atomic bomb tests were conducted. It seems that the draw to this area were the nearby nuclear and missile test sites. Scientists at Los Alamos, Sandia, and White Sands had gotten almost nonchalant about saucers showing up at their tests, as we shall see later. What was different in this case was the number of saucers, their actions, and the number of private citizens who viewed them.
The next event of note also involved a large number of objects and it took place in a very sensitive area, but an area far east of New Mexico. The sighting took place in Washington, D.C., and the event changed the course of government involvement in the UFO issue forever.
THE WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND
No other UFO event has had the lasting impact on the government’s handling of all UFO encounters than this remarkable event of July 1952 has. It stunned the government and the military and shocked the public, who demanded answers from their government.
It is important to keep in mind that in July 1952 the public still viewed flying saucers as a very real and legitimate phenomenon. The government, although not disclosing what it knew about the matter, had not yet engaged in a debunking and disinformation campaign and was in fact allowing some semiofficial statements to be made by senior officers.
On April 7, 1952, Life magazine, one of the most respected news and event publications in the United States, caused a national buzz when it published an article called “Have We Visitors from Space?” The article, written by H. B. Darrach Jr. and Robert Ginna, was a well-documented piece of investigative journalism on the phenomenon called flying saucers or unidentified flying objects. The truly remarkable aspect of this article is the cooperation of the Air Force, who opened their files on some bizarre cases and had a frank discussion on how the Air Force viewed the phenomenon.
Former head of Air Force Project Blue Book, Edward Ruppelt, stated that release of the information came from top Air Force personnel in the Pentagon. In this release of information Air Force officials gave the reporters the following startling information:
1. The Air Force maintained constant intelligence investigation of the objects.
2. Military aircraft were alerted to attempt interception and some were fitted with cameras and radar in an attempt to obtain factual data on the craft.
3. Operational units of the Air Force were alerted to report in detail any sighting of UFOs. Trained civilian watchers of the sky, pilots, scientists, weather observers, and so forth, were asked to make immediate reports to the Air Technical Intelligence Center at Wright-Patterson AFB.
4. The Air Force invited all citizens to make reports of any sighting to their closest Air Force base. (This may have been the reason the Air Force was so open with their information.)
5. The Air Force concluded by saying that there was no reason to believe that the objects were the result of a foreign power or a clear and present danger to the United States.
The Life article continued on with ten case studies and the evaluation of those studies. It concluded by suggesting that the extraterrestrial hypothesis presented the most likely explanation for the phenomenon.
Although important and shocking in 1952, the conclusion reached by the journalists is not the subject of greatest importance in this discussion. What the article validates is that going back to 1947 and the famous Kenneth Arnold sighting at Mount Rainier, Washington, the public and the media in general took the subject of flying saucers very seriously. This article and the July 1952 Washington, D.C., event would prove to be the zenith of the public’s acceptance of the great importance of UFO phenomena. The Washington merry-go-round (as the event was ladled by the media) and the resulting reaction to the public’s outcry would result in clamping the lid on any government knowledge of the issue and a debunking and disinformation campaign that continues today.
Three months after the Life magazine article was published, Washington, D.C., became the site of one of the most startling UFO events in history. On two successive weekend nights, July 19–20 and July 26–27, 1952, the sky over D.C., including the restricted airspace over the Capitol and the White House, was flown over by unknown objects and tracked on radar at Washington National Airport and Andrews AFB. The events of July 19 started at 11:40 P.M. and continued until 5:30 A.M. the following morning. The first sighting on July 26 was made at 8:15 P.M. and continued until dawn the next morning. Albert Chop, Air Force and Pentagon spokesman, was alerted and he called for Air Force jets to be scrambled on the night of the nineteenth, but the objects would disappear when the jets arrived, then reappear when the jets returned to base. On the twenty-sixth, the objects stayed and seemed to play cat and mouse with the fighters by hovering and then flashing away at speeds estimated to be in excess of seven thousand miles per hour.
The objects were seen by thousands of people in the area. They were photographed and reported around the world. People and politicians alike wanted answers and were exerting heavy pressure on the Air Force for them. At ten o’clock in the morning on the twenty-seventh, General Landry, at the direction of President Truman, called the Pentagon and requested information on the prior night’s events. Hysteria was building rapidly and the president wanted to defuse the situation before it ballooned out of hand. As a result, on July 29 Air Force generals John Samford and Roger Ramey held a news conference in an attempt to calm public anxiety over the events. It was the largest Air Force news conference since World War I and it achieved the desired results. General Sanford explained that the lights were simply the misidentification of stars and the radar returns were from temperature inversions. The public and the press accepted this explanation. However, on the inside the explanation was criticized. The radar operators were furious that they had been made to appear as incompetents who couldn’t distinguish a return between a temperature inversion and a hard target. Respected atmospheric physicist Dr. James E. McDonald, from the University of Arizona, felt the explanation ridiculous and physically impossible. Even Air Force Project Blue Book director, Capt. Edward J. Ruppelt, took issue with the explanation in his book The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects, after retiring from the Air Force.
THE ROBERTSON PANEL
Although the mounting hysteria from the sensational Washington sightings had been quelled by the news conference, there remained an uneasy feeling that another major sighting could reignite public panic. In the twilight of the Truman administration, the newly formed CIA convened a panel of noted scientists to review the UFO issue and report their findings and recommendations to the CIA. The Robertson Panel, as it became known, was classified at the time, and met for four days of two daily sessions each to review a number of UFO cases. One notable case was the review of film taken by a naval officer in Tremonton, Utah. This film showed a number of luminous rapidly moving objects. The Naval Photographic Interpretation Center (NPIC), headed by famed photographic interpreter, Arthur Charles Lundahl (to be discussed in chapter 3), studied the film for over one thousand hours. Their expert witnesses testified to the panel that the objects were not balloons, planes, or birds. The objects were self-luminous and of solid structure. Although there were no experts in photographic interpretation on the panel, the panel nevertheless rejected the lab’s finding and officially ruled that the objects were birds.
Dr. J. Allen Hynek, who was working as a consultant for the Air Force’s Project Blue Book at the time, attended as a junior member of the panel. He later wrote that it became clear to him that the panel seemed predisposed to debunk all UFO sightings, and in fact, their secret report to the CIA (called the Durant Report and now declassified), recommended a concerted government effort to debunk and discredit UFO sightings. In addition the panel recommended secretly watching civilian UFO investigatory groups.
After the Washington merry-go-round, most in the Air Force fell in step with the official Air Force line to discredit UFO sightings. One who did not was Albert Chop, the former head of the Air Force public information office and newly retired. At the time, Donald Keyhoe had just come out with his book Flying Saucers from Outer Space, which was very critical of the Air Force and their handling of the entire UFO issue. In short, it was giving the Air Force fits. Ruppelt pretty much fell in line with the Air Force, but Chop was another story. He had been in the Washington tower and watched the events unfold. In late October 1953, he was found by the press in California and asked his opinion on the UFO issue. Chop was forthright with his talk to the press. He defended Keyhoe, he criticized Blue Book, and he stated:
There is too much unexplained. Granting the reliability of the observers, one draws the conclusion that they are faster than anything on earth, are controlled, can hover and go to thousands of miles per hour in a split second. Where they come from we don’t know. But they are here, have been since one was first seen over Sweden in 1945, and are probably from somewhere else. With no earthly explanation, what else is there to think, if I believe in the creditability of the person reporting. (Swords and Powell 2012, 211)
Al Chop summed up the situation and discord within the Air Force beautifully at that time.
Another peek into Air Force thinking and policy in 1952 is found in the book, Legerdemain, by James J. Heaphey (2008). In 1952 Jim Heaphey was a young Air Force officer assigned to Nouasseur AFB in French Morocco. His cover job was the base newspaper editor but he worked undercover to spy on the French and feed information to the Moroccan nationalists. Truman wanted the French out because it was felt that if we helped the nationalists we would gain their favor and keep them from siding with the Soviets and in turn lose important air bases.
The only person on the base who knew Heaphey was an undercover agent was General Jackman, the base commander. In October 1952, while privately meeting in the general’s office and discussing an operation, there was an interesting change of subject by the general. Heaphey recounts the exchange as follows:
“What do you know about the Air Force Blue Book?”
“It’s a record of unidentified flying objects,” I said.
“We’ve had our first UFO reports here at Nouasseur, both during the past week. A KC-97 crew said they saw a circular light making passes at them. A few days later an F-86 pilot—you might know him, Bob Johnson—says he chased an object for 30 seconds at 530 mph but couldn’t catch it. He said it was about the size of a fighter without wings, tanks or trails.”
“Where do I fit in?” I asked.
He explained to me that the Air Force had an official explanation for all UFO sightings. According to that policy, UFO sightings were to be one or a combination of the following: a mild form of mass hysteria, an attempt by an individual to gain publicity, a form of psychopathology, or misidentification of various conventional objects.
“Your job is to interview the witnesses, I have them all quarantined in the security barracks on the strip, and write a report for Blue Book that conforms to Air Force explanations.”
“What happens to the witnesses?” I asked.
“None of your business,” he said flatly.
Actually I could guess the answer. They would be sent to Project Blue Book Headquarters, Wright-Patterson Air Force base in Dayton, Ohio, for debriefing. While the pilots would be debriefed, the real purpose in bringing witnesses to Wright-Patterson was to brief them on Air Force policy and to warn them about publicizing their UFO sightings. What was important to General Jackman was to keep it all as quiet as possible. (Heaphey 2008, 22)
While not a startling story in itself, it does indicate that by 1952, and a little more than two months before the Robertson Panel, the Air Force had the word out to all base commanders around the world to dummy up UFO sightings before sending on to Blue Book.
I met Jim Heaphey at a book conference held at a local resort where we were both speaking. My first novel, The Great River Disclosure, based on the government UFO cover-up, had just been released and that was the subject of my talk. Jim wanted to impress on me that my book was more fact than fiction. He said the extraterrestrial hypothesis (ETH) was the accepted norm but quietly spoken of in that time period within the Air Force in Europe.
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The lid was now on and the great modern UFO cover-up was firmly in place, as the Truman administration turned the executive branch of government over to the incoming Eisenhower administration. Harry Truman, a stickler for guarding government secrets, a man known for dressing down congressmen for loose talk, would be succeeded by another man equally noted for his stewardship in guarding state secrets.
In an interesting footnote to the Truman years and his attitude toward UFO secrets, Art Campbell, UFO researcher, former educator, and NICAP investigator, tells of returning to his hometown of Independence, Missouri, and meeting the retired Truman in an Independence museum along with two Secret Service agents. Truman in his early years had been friends with Campbell’s family and they reminisced a bit and laughed about Truman playing piano at a family member’s wedding. When Truman asked Campbell what he was now doing, and why he was in Independence, Campbell told him he investigated UFOs and was speaking that night to a group at a local hotel. At that point Truman’s whole demeanor became icy and the conversation ended. On that same evening Truman was addressing a group in the same hotel as Campbell. Campbell noticed that one of the Secret Service agents came into his meeting and stood at the back through his entire talk, no doubt at the direction of Truman. This is but another indication of Truman’s deep interest and concern with the subject.
THOUGHTS AND CONCLUSIONS
The Truman years were very troubling for the government and the military, but particularly for the Air Force as they were charged with guarding our sovereign airspace. We know now that within the higher levels of the Air Force there were three schools of thought: Those who felt UFOs had a natural explanation, those who thought they were Soviet platforms developed with the help of their captured Germans to deliver yet-to-be-developed atomic weapons (we had atomic weapons but not the proper platforms to deliver them), and those who felt UFOs were extraterrestrial craft. We can now eliminate the second school of thought as Dr. Stefan Possony did in 1952.
What is important to consider is the number of high-ranking and senior Air Force investigators who we know from the record in the pre–Robertson Panel era felt the extraterrestrial hypothesis was the logical explanation for UFO events. As early as 1948 most of the Air Force Project Sign group studying UFOs felt that the ET hypothesis was the only reasonable conclusion for the phenomenon. Serious consideration was being given to author the estimate of the situation to give to their superiors in the chain of command. They had held off developing the Estimate over concern as to how it would be received. Then on July 24, 1948, the Chiles/Whitted event occurred. This pushed them over the top and sometime in the late fall of 1948 the Estimate was released to the chain of command and stated that the unexplained UFO sightings were most likely extraterrestrial craft. The explosive result of the release of this document is discussed in a later chapter. However, it was the demise of Project Sign and the start of the Air Force’s housekeeping effort, Project Grudge.
Within the Pentagon, from 1949 through 1952, the amount of confusion and incompetence was almost incomprehensible to this writer as I researched that time period. Project Sign was in shambles and replaced by the debunking Project Grudge. Much to the chagrin of the Air Force, the Navy was quietly taking the issue seriously and unloaded a couple of bombshells that badly rattled the Air Force and its debunking efforts.
In the desert of New Mexico there was no debunking. Many of the top scientists—LaPaz, Neef, Rees, Kaplan, Bradbery, Reines, and Teller—were dealing not only with flying discs but green fireballs that seemed interested in Los Alamos and Sandia. Clyde Tombaugh, the discoverer of Pluto, sitting in the backyard of his Las Cruces home with his wife and mother enjoying the clear, star-filled night, saw a number of rectangular lights that he said, “Defied any explanation of known phenomena.” He had also seen saucers and the green fireballs, as had most of his colleagues. This became a matter that all of the Los Alamos and Sandia scientists took seriously and reported to the Pentagon where, unknown to them, they were received by persons with a debunking mentality.
In April 1949 the Navy’s top secret Project Mogul team, headed by Dr. Charles Moore, launched a Project Mogul balloon train, tracking it with a theodolite. While tracking the balloon train they noticed something else: a saucer that moved radically while rising at high speed until it disappeared at what the scientists estimated to be three hundred thousand feet. Dr. Moore, highly respected in the field of object-tracking, stated, “We did see an object under almost ideal observational conditions, which we cannot explain nor rationalize, but we do not claim that it was necessarily a flying disc or space ship.”
When Moore heard how the Air Force tried to debunk his report, he followed with another statement that is a snapshot of the New Mexico scientists’ feelings toward the current Air Force/Pentagon position on the flying saucer issue.
It appears from reading the report analysis that the Air Forces have been more interested in disproving or casting doubt on all unidentified object observations rather than any attempt to evaluate or explore them. It is believed that if some object, extra-terrestrial in origin, actually be observed, this group would spend more time disproving its existence than investigating it.
The disagreement within the Air Force over the origin of the phenomena continued to grow into 1952. Most of the researchers from Project Sign, Project Grudge, and later from Project Blue Book embraced the ET hypothesis including Gen. William Garland, who had seen a UFO, while other officials outside of the research held the theory that there was a terrestrial explanation.
The question must be asked why so many high-ranking officers and officials disagreed over the UFO phenomenon if the Air Force, from as early as 1941, had in its possession alien craft and living and dead occupants. The answer is speculation, but reasonable speculation.
If Truman authorized the very secret Majestic-12 (MJ-12) group, as seems likely, those in the loop of knowledge would be small and carefully controlled. It made no difference how many stars an officer had on his shoulder; if he was not in the “need to know” he didn’t know, and this included Sign, Grudge, and Blue Book personnel. Those on the outside or not in the need-to-know loop would have no knowledge that a very small group of high-ranking government and military personnel and a few eminent scientists had possession of and were studying extraterrestrial craft and biological entities. The group of eminent scientists knew that something very unusual was going on but remained outside the loop of insiders. Edward Teller most certainly was on the inside but could not share his knowledge with fellow scientists. If it appears that a very few insiders, including several high-ranking Air Force officers, were letting the Air Force twist in the wind, that would seem to be a reasonable assessment of the situation.
This internal Air Force disagreement worked in favor of those in the loop of knowledge to help conceal from the public the secrets this group possessed. Let the researchers continue to gather data that the MJ-12 group could use while developing a disinformation program to offset anything made public by Sign, Grudge, and Blue Book research. General Vandenberg’s knocking down the Estimate of the Situation in 1948 and the Sanford-Ramey press conference in July 1952 after the Washington, D.C., sightings were prime examples of this policy. A parallel can be drawn between the work of Majestic 12 on the UFO issue and the Manhattan Project’s development of the atomic bomb.
The next eight years saw a continuation of the policies relating to UFO secrets under the Eisenhower administration. The world was growing up rapidly while the U.S. and the Soviet Union were locked in a missile and a space race and living under the frightening policy of mutual assured destruction. The U.S. continued with its post–World War II policy of maintaining the highest level of classification on UFO issues. Documents and statements by a number of both civilian and military personnel now indicate that Eisenhower may have been involved in some truly astounding UFO-related matters that still remain highly classified. However, the status quo would remain until a young former senator from Massachusetts moved into the White House and attempted changes that may well have had tragic results.
Copyright © 2015 by Larry Holcombe.
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Larry Holcombe's introduction to the world of ufology came in the late 1950's after reading Major Donald Keyhoe's, Flying Saucers Are Real and Flying Saucers from Outer Space. These books started a 50 plus year study and avocation into mainstream research on the subject. His writing, speaking efforts and interviews now center on bringing light to bear on the continued United States denial and cover-up of UFO issues. He lives in Callao, Virginia.