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- The Flying Saucers are Real - 30/38 -
Curiosity . Without this quality, they would never have thought to explore far-distant planets.
There were other qualities that seemed almost equally certain. These spacemen apparently lacked belligerence; there had been no sign of hostility through all the years. They were seemingly painstaking and extremely methodical.
It was still not much of a picture. But somehow, it was encouraging.
Glancing down from the plane's window, I thought: How does this look to them? Our farms, our cities, the railroads there below; the highways, with the speeding cars and trucks; the winding river, and far off to the right, the broad stretch of the Atlantic.
What would they think of America?
Manhattan came into sight, as the pilot let down for the landing. An odd thought popped into my mind. How would a spaceman react if he saw a Broadway show?
Not long before, I had seen South Pacific. I could still hear Ezio Pinza's magnificent voice as he sang "Some Enchanted Evening."
Was music a part of spacemen's lives, or would it be something new and strange, perhaps completely distasteful?
They might live and think on a coldly intelligent level, without a touch of what we know as emotion. To them, our lives might seem meaningless and dull. We ourselves might appear grotesque in form.
But in their progress, there must have been struggle, trial and error, some feeling of triumph at success. Surely these would be emotional forces, bound to reflect in the planet races. Perhaps, in spite of some differences, we would find a common bond--the bond of thinking, intelligent creatures trying to better themselves.
The airliner landed and taxied in to unload.
As I went down the gangway I suddenly realized something. My last vague fear was gone.
It had not been a personal fear of the visitors from space. It had been a selfish fear of the impact on my life. I realized that now.
It might be a long time before they would try to make contact. But I had a conviction that when it came, it would be a peaceful mission, not an ultimatum. It could even be the means of ending wars on earth.
But I had been conditioned to this thing. I had had six months of preparation, six months to go from complete skepticism to slow, final acceptance.
What if it had been thrown at me in black headlines?
Even a peaceful contact by beings from another planet would profoundly affect the world. The story in True might play an important part in that final effect. Carefully done, it could help prepare Americans for the official disclosure.
But if it weren't done right, we might be opening a Pandora's box.
THAT MORNING, at True, we made the final decisions on how to handle the story. Using the evidence of the Mantell case, the Chiles-Whitted report, Gorman's mystery-light encounter, and other authentic cases, along with the records of early sightings, we would state our main conclusion: that the flying saucers were interplanetary.
In going over the mass of reports, Purdy and I both realized that a few sightings did not fit the space-observer pattern. Most of these reports came from the southwest states, where guided-missile experiments were going on.
Purdy agreed with Paul Redell that any long-range tests would be made over the sea or unpopulated areas, with every attempt at secrecy.
"They might make short-range tests down there in New Mexico and Arizona-maybe over Texas," he said. "But they'd never risk killing people by shooting the things all over the country."
"They've already set up a three-thousand-mile range for the longer runs," I added. "It runs from Florida into the South Atlantic. And the Navy missiles at Point Mugu are launched out over the Pacific. Any guided missiles coming down over settled areas would certainly be an accident. Besides all that, no missile on earth can explain these major cases."
Purdy was emphatic about speculating on our guided-missile research.
"Suppose you analyzed these minor cases that look like missile tests. You might accidentally give away something important, like their range and speeds. Look what the Russians did with the A-bomb hints Washington let out."
It was finally decided that we would briefly mention the guided missiles, along with the fact that the armed services had flatly denied any link with the saucers.
"After all, interplanetary travel is the main story," said Purdy. "And the Mantell case alone proves we've
been observed from space ships, even without the old records."
The question of the story's impact worried both of us. public acceptance of intelligent life on other planets would affect almost every phase of our existence-business, defense planning, philosophy, even religion. Of course, the immediate effect was more important. Personally, I thought that most Americans could take even an official announcement without too much trouble. But I could be wrong.
"The only yardstick--and that's not much good--is that 'little men' story," said Purdy. "A lot of people have got excited about it, but they seem more interested than scared."
The story of the "little men from Venus" had been circulating for some time. In the usual version, two flying saucers had come down near our southwest border. In the space craft were several oddly dressed men, three feet high. All of them were dead; the cause was usually given as inability to stand our atmosphere. The Air Force was said to have hushed up the story, so that the public could be educated gradually to the truth. Though it had all the earmarks of a well-thought-out hoax, many newspapers had repeated the story. It had even been broadcast as fact on several radio newscasts. But there had been no signs of public alarm.
"It looks as if people have come a long way since that Orson Welles scare," I said to Purdy.
"But there isn't any menace in this story," he objected. "The crews were reported dead, so everybody got the idea that spacemen couldn't live if they landed. What if a space ship should suddenly come down over a big city--say New York--low enough for millions of people to see it?"
"it might cause a stampede," I said,
Purdy snorted. "it would be a miracle if it didn't, unless people had been fully prepared. if we do a straight fact piece, just giving the evidence, it will start the ball rolling. People at least will be thinking about it."
Before I left for Washington, I told Purdy of my last visit to the Pentagon. I had informed Air Force press
relations officials of True's intention to publish the space-travel answer. There had been no attempt to dissuade me. And I had been told once again that there was no security involved; that Project "Saucer" had found nothing threatening the safety of America.
At this time I had also asked if Project "Saucer" files were now available. The Wright Field unit, I was told, still was a classified project, both its files and its photographs secret. This had been the first week in October.
When I asked if there was any other information on published cases, the answer again was negative. The April 27th report, according to Press Branch officials, was still an accurate statement of Air Force opinions and policies. So far as they knew, no other explanations had be n found for the unidentified saucers.
'I in absolutely convinced now," I told Purdy, "that here's an official policy to let the thing leak out. It explains why Forrestal announced our Earth Satellite Vehicle program, years before we could even start to build it. It also would explain those Project 'Saucer' hints in the April report."
"I think we're being used as a trial balloon," Purdy said thoughtfully. "We've let them know what we're doing. If they'd wanted to stop us, the Air Force could easily have done it. All they'd have to do would be call us in, give us the dope off the record, and tell us it was a patriotic duty to keep still. Just the way they did about uranium and atomic experiments during the war."
He still did not have the name of the other magazine supposed to be working on the saucers. But it seemed a reliable tip (it later proved to be true), and from then on we worked under high pressure.
In writing the article, I used only the most authentic recent sightings; all of the cases were in the Air Force reports. When it came to the Mantell case, I stuck to published estimates of the strange object's size; a mysterious ship 250 to 300 feet in diameter was startling enough. At first, I chose Mars to illustrate our space explorations. But Mars had been associated with the Orson Welles stampede. Most discussions of the planet had a menacing note, perhaps because of its warlike name.
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