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- The Flying Saucers are Real - 6/38 -
to the moon."
As I went through Purdy's summary, I recalled my own reaction after the United Airlines report. After seeing the Pentagon comment, I had called up Captain Tom Brown, at Air Force Public Relations.
"Are you really taking this seriously?" I asked him.
"Well, we can't just ignore it," he said. "There are too many reliable pilots telling the same story--flat, round objects able to outmaneuver ordinary planes, and faster than anything we have. Too many stories tally."
I told him I'd heard that the Civil Air Patrol in Wisconsin and other states was starting a sky search.
"We've got a jet at Muroc, and six fighters standing by at Portland right now," Brown said.
"I've no report on that. But I know some of them carry photographic equipment."
Two days later an airline pilot from the Coast told me that some fighters had been armed and the pilots ordered to bring down the disks if humanly possible. That same day, Wright Field admitted it was checking stories of disk-shaped missiles seen recently in the Pacific northwest and in Texas.
Following this was an A.P. story, dated July 7, quoting an unnamed Air Force official in Washington:
"The flying saucers may be one of three things:
"1. Solar reflection on low-hanging clouds. [A Washington scientist, asked for comment, said this was hardly possible.]
"2. Small meteors which break up, their crystals catching the rays of the sun. But it would seem that they would have been spotted falling and fragments would have been found.
"3. Icing conditions could have formed large hailstones, and they might have flattened out and glided a bit, giving
the impression of horizontal movement even though falling vertically."
By this time everyone was getting into the act.
"The disks are caused by the transmutation of atomic energy," said an anonymous scientist, supposed to be on the staff of California Tech. The college quickly denied it.
Dr. Vannevar Bush, world-famous scientist, and Dr. Merle Tuve, inventor of the proximity fuse, both declared they would know of any secret American missiles--and didn't.
At Syracuse, New York, Dr. Harry Steckel, Veterans Administration psychiatrist, scoffed at the suggestion of mass hysteria. "Too many sane people are seeing the things. The government is probably conducting some revolutionary experiments."
On July 8 more disks were reported. Out at Muroc Air Force Base, where top-secret planes and devices are tested, six fast-moving silvery-white saucers were seen by pilots and ground officers.
That afternoon the Air Force revealed it was working on a case involving a Navy rocket expert named C. T. Zohm. While on a secret Navy mission to New Mexico, in connection with rocket tests, Zohm had seen a bright silvery disk flying above the desert. He was crossing the desert with three other scientists when he saw the strange object flashing northward at an altitude of about ten thousand feet.
"I'm sure it was not a meteor," said Zohm. "It could have been a guided missile, but I never heard of anything like it."
By this time, saucer reports had come in from almost forty states. Alarm was increasing, and there were demands that radar be used to track the disks. The Air Force replied that there was not enough radar equipment to blanket the nation, but that its pilots were on the lookout for the saucers.
One report mentioned a curious report from Twin Falls, Idaho. The disk sighted there was said to have flown so low that the treetops whirled as if in a violent storm. Someone had phoned Purdy about a disk tracked
by weather-balloon observers at Richmond, Virginia. There was another note on a sighting at Hickam Field, Honolulu, and two reports of unidentified objects seen near Anchorage, Alaska.
A typed list of world-wide sightings had been made up by the staff at True. It contained many cases that were new to me, reports from Paraguay, Belgium, Turkey, Holland, Germany, and the Scandinavian countries. At the bottom of this memo Purdy had written: "Keep checking on rumor that the Soviet has a Project Saucer, too. Could be planted."
From the mass of reports, John DuBarry, the aviation editor of True, had methodically worked out an average picture of the disks: "The general report is that they are round or oval (this could be an elliptical object seen end-on), metallic looking, very bright--either shining white or silvery colored. They can move at extremely high speed, hover, accelerate rapidly, and outmaneuver ordinary aircraft.
"The lights are usually seen singly--very few formations reported. They seem to have the same speed, acceleration, and ability to maneuver. In several cases, they have been able to evade Air Force planes in night encounters."
Going over the cases, I realized that Purdy and his staff had dug up at least fifty reports that had not appeared in the papers. (A few of these proved incorrect, but a check with the Air Force case reports released on December 30, 1949, showed that True's files contained all the important items.) These cases included sightings at eleven Air Force bases and fourteen American airports, reports from ships at sea, and a score of encounters by airline and private pilots.
Witnesses included Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force officers; state and city police; F.B.I. agents; weather observers, shipmasters, astronomers, and thousands of good solid American citizens. I learned later that many witnesses had been investigated by the F.B.I. to weed out crackpot reports.
I ended up badly puzzled. The evidence was more impressive than I had suspected. It was plain that many
reports had been entirely suppressed, or at least kept out of the papers. There was something ominous about it. No matter what the answer, it was serious enough to be kept carefully hidden.
If it were a Soviet missile, I thought, God help us. They'd scooped up a lot of Nazi scientists and war secrets. And the Germans had been far ahead of us on guided missiles. But why would they give us a two-year warning, testing the things openly over America? It didn't make sense.
I WENT to the Pentagon the next morning. I didn't expect to learn much, but I wanted to make sure we weren't tangling with security.
I'd worked with Al Scholin and Orville Splitt, in the magazine section of Public Relations, and I thought they'd tell me as much as anyone. When I walked in, I sprang it on them cold.
"What's the chance of seeing your Project 'Saucer' files?"
Al Scholin took it more or less dead-pan. Splitt looked at me a moment and then grinned.
"Don't tell me you believe the things are real?"
"Maybe," I said. "How about clearing me with Project 'Saucer'?"
Al shook his head. "It's still classified secret."
"'Look, Don," said Splitt, "why do you want to fool with that saucer business? There's nothing to it."
'"That's a big change from what the Air Force was saying; in 1947," I told him.
He shrugged that off. "The Air Force has spent two years checking into it. Everybody from Symington down will tell you the saucers are bunk."
"That's not what Project 'Saucer' says in that April report."
"That report was made up a long time ago," said Splitt. "They just got around to releasing it."
"Then they've got all the answers now?"
"They know there's nothing to it," Splitt repeated.
"In that case," I said, "Project 'Saucer' shouldn't object to my seeing their files and pictures."
"That one taken at Harmon Field, Newfoundland, for a starter."
"Oh, that thing," said Splitt. "It wasn't anything--just a shadow on a cloud. Somebody's been kidding you."
"If it's just a cloud shadow, why can't I see it?"
Splitt was getting a little nettled.
"Look, you know how long it takes to declassify stuff. They just
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