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- The Flying Saucers are Real - 5/38 -
airline pilots' reports, the disks Kenneth Arnold saw--they're all unidentified."
"I remember the Arnold case. That was the first sighting."
"You've got contacts in Washington," Purdy went on. "Start at the Pentagon first. They know we're working on it. Sam Boal, the first man on this job, was down there for a day or two."
"What did he find out?"
"Symington told him the saucers were bunk. Secretary Johnson admitted they had some pictures--we'd heard about a secret photograph taken at Harmon Field, Newfoundland. The tip said this saucer scared hell out of some pilots and Air Force men up there.
"A major took Boal to some Air Force colonel and Boal asked to see the pictures. The colonel said they didn't have any. He turned red when the major said Symington had told Boal about the pictures."
"Did Boal get to see them?" I said.
"No," grunted Purdy, "and I'll bet twenty bucks you won't, either. But try, anyway. And check on a rumor that they've tracked some disks with radar. One case was supposed to be at an Air Force base in Japan."
As I was leaving, Purdy gave me a summary of sighting reports.
"Some of these were published, some we dug up ourselves," he said. "We got some confidential stuff from
airline pilots. It's pretty obvious the Air Force has tried to keep them quiet."
"All right," I said. "I'll get started. Maybe things aren't sewed up so tightly, now this report is out."
"We've found out some things about Project 'Saucer,' said Purdy. "Whether it's a cover-up or a real investigation, there's a lot of hush-hush business to it. They've got astronomers and astrophysicists working for them, also rocket expects, technical analysts, and Air Force Special Intelligence. We've been told they can call on any government agency for help--and I know they're using the F.B.I."
It was building up bigger than I had thought.
"If national security is involved," I told Purdy, "they can shut us up in a hurry."
"If they tell me so, O.K.," said Purdy. He added grimly, "But I think they're making a bad mistake. They probably think they're doing what's right. But the truth might come out the wrong way."
"It is possible," I thought, "that the saucers belong to Russia."
"If it turns out to be a Soviet missile, count me out," I said. "We'd have the Pentagon and the F.B.I. on our necks."
"All right, if that's the answer." He chuckled. "But you may be in for a jolt."
JUST THE idea of gigantic flying disks was incredible enough. It was almost as hard to believe that such missiles could have been developed without something leaking out. Yet we had produced the A-bomb in comparative secrecy, and I knew we were working on long-range guided missiles. There was already a plan for a three-thousand-mile test range. Our supersonic planes had hit around two thousand miles an hour. Our two-stage rockets had gone over two hundred miles high, according to reports. If an atomic engine had been secretly developed, it could explain the speed and range of the saucers.
But I kept coming back to Mantell's death and the Air Force orders for pilots to chase the saucers. If the disks were American missiles, that didn't jibe.
When I reached the lobby, I found it was ten after four. I caught a taxi and made the Congressional Limited with just one minute to spare. In the club car, I settled down to look at Purdy's summary.
Skipping through the pages, I saw several familiar cases. Here and there, Purdy had scrawled brief comments or suggestions. Beside the Eastern Airline report of a double-decked saucer, he had written:
"Check rumor same type seen over Holland about this date. Also, similar Philippine Islands report--date unknown."
I went back to the beginning. The first case listed was that of Kenneth Arnold, a Boise businessman, who had set off the saucer scare. Arnold was flying his private plane from Chehalis to Yakima, Washington, when he saw a bright flash on his wing.
Looking toward Mount Rainier, he saw nine gleaming disks outlined against the snow, each one about the size of a C-54.
"They flew close to the mountaintops, in a diagonal chainlike line," he said later. "It was as if they were linked together."
The disks appeared to be twenty to twenty-five miles
away, he said, and moving at fantastic speed. Arnold's estimate was twelve hundred miles an hour.
"I watched them about three minutes," he said. "They were swerving in and out around the high mountain peaks. They were flat, like a pie pan, and so shiny they reflected the sun like a mirror. I never saw anything so fast."
The date was June 24, 1947.
On this same day there was another saucer report. which received very little notice. A Portland prospector named Fred Johnson, who was working up in the Cascade Mountains, spotted five or six disks banking in the sun. He watched them through his telescope several seconds. then he suddenly noticed that the compass hand on his special watch was weaving wildly from side to side. Johnson insisted he had not heard of the Arnold report, which was not broadcast until early evening.
Kenneth Arnold's story was generally received with amusement. Most Americans were unaware that the Pentagon had been receiving disk reports as early as January. The news and radio comments on Arnold's report brought several other incidents to light, which observers had kept to themselves for fear of ridicule.
At Oklahoma City, a private pilot told Air Force investigators he had seen a huge round object in the sky during the latter part of May. It was flying three times faster than a jet, he said, and without any sound. Citizens of Weiser, Idaho, described two strange fast-moving objects they had seen on June 12. The saucers were heading southeast, now and then dropping to a lower altitude, then swiftly climbing again. Several mysterious objects were reported flying at great speed near Spokane, just three days before Arnold's experience. And four days after his encounter, an Air Force pilot flying near Lake Meade, Nevada, was startled to see half a dozen saucers flash by his plane.
Even at this early point in the scare, official reports were contradicting each other. just after Arnold's story broke, the Air Force admitted it was checking on the mystery disks. On July 4 the Air Force stated that no further investigation was needed; it was all
hallucination. That same day, Wright Field told the Associated Press that the Air Materiel Command was trying to find the answer.
The Fourth of July was a red-letter day in the flying-saucer mystery. At Portland, Oregon, hundreds of citizens, including former Air Force pilots, police, harbor pilots, and deputy sheriffs, saw dozens of gleaming disks flying at high speed. The things; appeared to be at least forty thousand feet in the air--perhaps much higher.
That same day, disks were sighted at Seattle, Vancouver, and other northwest cities. The rapidly growing reports were met with mixed ridicule and alarm. One of the skeptical group was Captain E. J. Smith, of United Airlines.
"I'll believe them when I see them," he told airline employees, before taking off from Boise the afternoon of the Fourth.
Just about sunset, his airliner was flying over Emmett, Idaho, when Captain Smith and his copilot, Ralph Stevens, saw five queer objects in the sky ahead. Smith rang for the stewardess, Marty Morrow, and the three of them watched the saucers for several minutes. Then four more of the disks came into sight. Though it was impossible to tell their size, because their altitude was unknown, the crew was sure they were bigger than the plane they were in. After about ten minutes the disks disappeared.
The Air Force quickly denied having anything resembling the! objects Captain Smith described.
"We have no experimental craft of that nature in Idaho--or anywhere else," an official said in Washington. "We're completely mystified."
The Navy said it had made an investigation, and had no answers. There had been rumors that the disks were "souped-up" versions of the Navy's "Flying Flapjack," a twin-engined circular craft known technically as the XF-5-U-1. But the Navy insisted that only one model had been built, and that it was now out of service.
In Chicago, two astronomers spiked guesses that the disks might be meteors. Dr. Girard Kieuper, director of the University of Chicago observatory, said flatly that they couldn't be meteors.
"They're probably man-made," he told the A.P. Dr. Oliver Lee, director of Northwestern's observatory, agreed with Kieuper.
"The Army, Navy, and Air Force are working secretly on all sorts of things," he said. "Remember the A-bomb secrecy--and the radar signals
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