Date: Thu, 27 Oct 2005 05:05:18 -0700
Subject: Comments on Events, 1948
By: Joel Carpenter

Original source:

23 Jan 48 - Clingerman memo - SIGN requests AFOIR (USAF Intelligence) GR file for review

17 Feb 48 - AFOIR-AA memo. A Swedish Dr Wilkenson described efforts of Swedish govt and his company to perfect V-1-type guided missiles; had called in a German scientist who was expert on V-1 for assistance with range deficiency. Dr Wilkenson had ideas about GRs but Col von Schinkel shouted him down

18 Feb 48 - Norton County, Kansas fireball - apparent concern that it might be foreign missile. (see 25 Mar 48) LaPaz tells April 1949 <>Los Alamos GFB conference (Teller, Ulam, Bradbury) that "The time that fall, February 18, 1948, the rumor got around somehow in Northern Kansas and Southern Kansas that it was a Russian bomb, and it was aimed at the geographical center of the United States which is not very far from [Norton]. Apparently, a great many people gave credence to that rumor and were delighted when we finally recovered meteorites up there and proved it wasn't anything but an ordinary meteorite fall. Incidentally, it did not have the characteristics of the green fireball we're talking about here."

(However, the Norton County fall is unique in being to date the largest recovered example of a meteorite composed of extremely rare material called "Aubrite" - enstatite achondrite, almost pure magnesium silicate.)

LaPaz directs loading of the magnesium meteorite from the Norton County fall

Ironically, LaPaz received a letter the same day from the AF concerning photo reconnaissance coverage of the Four Corners area (see 30 Oct 47)

25 Mar 48 - "Enemy ranging fire" and Nininger's reaction to LaPaz's unseemly haste to recover the Norton County meteorite.

The University of New Mexico


Institute of Meteoritics

March 25, 1948

TO:   Dr. V. H. Regener, Chairman
Senate Research Committee

FROM:   Lincoln LaPaz

SUBJECT:   Grant for Meteoritic Investigations

In response to your recent inquiry, the following information is submitted with respect to (1) the $375.00 grant originally asked for; and (2) the additional $125.00 now requested:

(a)   At the time, (Nov. 17, 1947) when the original request was made, no source of money save the almost exhausted research grant of the Institute of Meteoritics was available and no request had been made to any other agency for funds.

(b)   On March 10, 1948, in response to an invitation sent out by the O.N.R. asking for proposed projects in the field of Astronomy, a grant of $3,000 was requested from the O.N.R. to support continuation of the search in the Four Corners area and to finance an intensive investigation of the very recent (Feb. 18, 1948) fall at Norton, Kansas.  The writer's request to the O.N.R. has received strong support from at least the following nationally known scientists: Dr. H. E. Landsberg, Research and Development Board, Washington, D.C.; Dr. Fred Whipple and Dr. Fletcher Watson, Harvard University; Dr. Harold Urey and Dr. Harrison Brown of the Institute for Nuclear Studies, University of Chicago. However, even in case the O.N.R. acts favorably on our application for funds, it will be sometime before such funds become available. Therefore, in view of the urgent need for speedy recovery of the meteorites, it is felt that a request for immediate additional financial aid is justified.  As noted in my earlier communication to you, the fact that only part of the $375.00 has been spent to date is simply a reflection of the impossibility of launching a full scale search until weather and terrain conditions improve, and should not be interpreted as evidence that no more funds are needed.

(c)   The scale of the light, sound and mechanical effects observed during the falls of both 1947 Oct. 30 in the Four Corners area and 1948 Feb. 18 in the Norton, Kansas area is the strongest possible evidence that genuine meteorite falls occurred in these localities.  All experts who have personal knowledge of the facts concur in the belief that meteorites actually fell in these areas.  It is true that rocket or guided missile experiments on a colossal scale might give rise to phenomena of the sort observed in New Mexico and Kansas.  But if the observed effects are of human origin, then the need for speedy recovery of all possible evidence is far more urgent than in case harmless meteorite falls were involved; for, from the beginning, all U.S. Military Agencies have denied that our forces were responsible for either the Four Corners or Norton incidents.  As evidence of the sincerity of the Armed Forces, the writer wishes to point out that the Institute has received every possible aid from them in connection with the searches so far carried out in the Four Corners area.  Col. Leslie O. Peterson's letter of 18 Feb. 1948 (of which copies are inclosed) and the elaborate suite of A.A.F. air photographs recently presented to the Institute which you have personally examined, give some indication of the extent to which the A.A.F. has gone and plans to go in order to insure the success of the Institute of Meteoritics' searcher.  I have no hesitation in characterizing both the Four Corners and Norton incidents as either genuine meteorite falls of the results of enemy ranging fire. In either case it would appear that the searches conducted by the Institute of Meteoritics are entirely justified.  Personally, I believe the odds are of the order of 999 to 1 that genuine meteorite falls are observed.

(d)   The question as to the probability of recovering meteorites (or missile fragments) assuming such objects are actually present in the Four Corners and Norton area can be answered as follows: This probability can be made as near unity as we please by conducting a sufficiently intensive and extensive search.

In conclusion, I should like to point out that whereas the $375 originally requested was earmarked for use on the Four Corners fall, I should like to have authorization from the Senate Research Committee to allocate the $125 last requested to either the Norton, Kansas area or the Four Corners area whichever first presents weather and terrain conditions permitting a resumption of effective search.  This request has its origin in the urgency for as speedy recovery as possible of the fallen meteorites; and the knowledge gained through field experience that conditions in the Four Corners area may remain impossible until late spring or early summer.  Should the Committee be willing to permit what remains of the original $375 in either area, I believe the chances for early recovery of meteorites would be substantially improved.  In making this statement I do not wish to be understood to imply that meteorites may not have fallen in the Four Corners area; but only that they will very probably be much harder to find there than in Kansas and Nebraska.

Assuring you and through you the Senate Research Committee of our appreciation of the very material aid given the Institute of Meteoritics, I
am, with the highest personal regards

Very truly yours,

Lincoln LaPaz
Institute of Meteoritics

Related, undated Nininger flyer:

The Norton, Kansas Meteorite - A Factual Statement in the Interest of Safeguarding Research

Part 1

February 18, 1948 at about 5:00 p.m. a fireball was sighted by people of several states. This was variously reported as a rocket, a bomb, a space ship, etc.

February 19th. Statements were given to the press by several scientists including Monning, LaPaz and Nininger, to the effect that a meteorite had probably landed in the vicinity of Norton, Kans.

February 19th. Nininger inquired of news agencies if any proposed survey had been announced by anyone and when informed that no such plan had been reported, he authorized the announcement that he would be on the way within an hour to make a survey. The Niningers left about 11:00 a.m. for this survey the same day.

February 20th was spent in the Panhandle of Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, interviewing witnesses to the great meteor. At this time there was still much speculation in the press as to whether this had been a meteor, a bomb, a rocket, etc, etc. But Nininger stated positively that it was a meteorite.

February 21st. Niningers encircled the end point of the meteor, which proved to be almost directly over Norcatur, Kans. They found the populace of Norton County about evenly divided on the question as to whether it had been a meteor or some other type of apparition. There was a similar division of opinion on the matter of direction, whether from the S.W. to N.E. or from N.E. to S.W. Nininger assured them it had passed from S.W. to N.E.

Mr. H. O. Stockwell was in the Norton area when the Niningers arrived. He had come with his detecting device, but had decided that this situation had not yet reached the state where his method was applicable. He said he was not able to make the kind of survey needed and would return to Hutchinson. He and the Niningers agreed upon a plan of cooperation.

February 22nd was spent in making further interviews and in drawing a preliminary map to guide the community in a search for fragments.

February 23d. A free lecture was given in the Norton High School and another in Norcatur at a Father & Son banquet. Specimens were exhibited at these lectures and were left on display in the high school until noon the following day.

February 24th. A sketch map was placed on exhibition in the high school and left there to guide local residents in their search for small fragments. The Nininger method has always been to concentrate on the search for small fragments first, which lie on the surface, and let these finds guide in the later search for large fragments.  Also, instructions were published in the local newspapers as to how to proceed with the search and where to report suspected specimens.

It should be mentioned that the editor of the Norton Daily Telegram told Nininger on Feg. 24th that all of the information that he had gleaned previous to the Nininger lecture and his personal contact with him, had given him the impression that any meteorite could be identified by its response to a magnet.  This of course is eroneous [sic].

It should also be mentioned that Nininger found several spurious exhibits in circulation in Norton, the owners of which were informed of the falseness of their exhibits as meteorites.

The Niningers' departure was forced by the arrival of the season's worst snow storm but they left with the full assurance of complete cooperation on the part of the community.

Part II

Subsequent to the Niningers' departure it appears that the area was visited in March by representatives of the University of New Mexico who interviewed farmers in the area which has been designated for search.  Some weeks later, April 6th, Mr. Tansill, well within the designated search area picked up an odd-looking stone which he suspected of being a piece of the meteorite that had been so much talked about. Though his family and neighbors tried to talk him out of it he persisted in the idea and about three weeks later he reported it. Due to the activities of those who had followed the Niningers, this fragment went to the University of New Mexico.

Dr. Lincoln LaPaz of the University of New Mexico now began a vigorous campaign among the farmers in the area surrounding this find.  This was accomplished without any publicity until the eve of his return to Albuquerque when announcement was made over the radio.

The wording of the announcement was such as to lead Nininger to believe that the find had been made farther north and east than the area which he had designated for search.  When members of his staff expressed surprise that Nininger did not go immediately, he explained that his designated area would yield in due time and that he did not intend to interfere with any survey that may have developed independently.  However, when a few days later the 100-lb. fragment was found, he learned that it was within the area which he had designated.  He then went again to the location and found that most of the fragments so far recovered were within the limits designated.

While in the area this second time, May 5th to 9th, Nininger made further checks on the observational data, coupled with facts revealed by the finds so far made, and saw no reason for changing his original map materially.  He recalculated to extend the search for large fragments which he had not included in the preliminary sketch and interviewed farmers on the Nebraska side of the line. He spoke specifically to Mr. Harold Hahn, urging him to look out for any hole that might mark the entrance of a large stone.  It was in Mr. Hahn's field that the large mass was later found.

Part III

This large mass was offered for sale to the highest bidder. The University of New Mexico and the University of Nebraska combined together to outbid Niningers on the pretext that the latter were commercial and that they on the contrary represented "pure science."  Yet it is a matter of record that Nininger has carried on far more research in meteoritics than both these institutions combined during the past 10 years.  And all of his resources are at present devoted to education and research.

It is also a matter of record that on the occasion of the fall of February 18th, and during succeeding days these "pure science" institutions saw fit to stay at home and let the great meteor go unsurveyed so far as they were concerned.  Dr. LaPaz sent word to Norton that he would come if anything were found and the University of Nebraska contributed to science by announcing that "It may well have been a meteor."

Weeks after the fall Dr. LaPaz was quoted in the press as speculating whether it was a meteor, a rocket or a contra-terrene meteorite.

On the eve of the sale of the meteorite, representatives of the University of Nebraska volunteered that they had no interest whatever in the whole affair until it was learned that a piece had landed in their state!  Such is the way of "pure science"!  They also stated that they felt a moral responsibility to the state for securing this meteorite.  Apparently, this feeling of moral responsibility did not extend to those whose labors and money had been responsible for their knowing that the meteorite had landed.

Of all the different phases of meteoritical research, none has ever proven so costly and so likely to represent a clean outlay of cash with no returns, even in for form of specimens, as in the survey of fireballs.  Surely no one with experience in this field would ever think of its being turned into a profitable activity. Yet the records will show that two individuals operating independent of "pure science" institutions have done nearly all of this kind of research in the southwest during the past 20 years.  Nininger is one of the two.

It might well be mentioned that when the first finds were made Dr. LaPaz explained that because Nininger had left the area and that the University of New Mexico was first on the ground after the find, therefore the latter had prior rights and that Nininger was an interloper.  When, however, the big stone was found on Hahn's farm, in keeping with Nininger's calculations and by the man whom he had coached to look for such phenomena, even though Nininger was on the ground 14 hours ahead of LaPaz, the latter again insisted on prior rights.

On this occasion, this "pure science" advocate (who a month earlier was the only man in the great A.A.S. convention in Pasadena to speak in favor of the continued commercializing of the great Arizona meteorite crater forced all concerned to participate in the ridiculous procedure of an auction sale where Nininger had to choose between losing the fruit of his expensive survey and the paying of an exorbitant price for the meteorite.

The "pure science" group therefore set a new high price level which will go a long way in completing the commercialization of meteorites.

H. H. Nininger, Director
American Meteorite Museum
P.O. Box 1171, Winslow, Arizona

15 Apr 48 - "An otherwise routine request to a news service for copies of [photos of] the February 18th [1948 Norton, KS meteor's] smoke cloud made by Col W R Clingerman, Chief, Technical Intelligence Division, Wright-Patterson AFB, on April 15th, contains this sentence: 'This Command is currently engaged in an intelligence study involving the identification of meteors and meteorites.'" (Gross)

5 May 48 - "An item in the Istanbul newspaper Yeni Sabah on May 5 [48] told of strange doings in the sky over the countryside: 'There have been reports lately to the effect that shining objects like meteors have been sighted in various parts of the country. Some people suggest that these might be rockets. Information received from authorized circles reveals that such a thing passed over Adapazari and was seen to explode in the air. Parts of it fell into a village nearby and killed a sheep dog. The thing was found to be a rocket and the debris will be inspected by experts. Observers say that the rocket which has [been] claimed to have come from the Northwest was flying at an altitude of 200 meters over Adapazari before it fell. According to rumors, it is possible that the rocket is connected with the 'flying disc' experiments being conducted by the Russians at the station on Mt. Alagos close to the eastern frontier.'" (Gross)

Late May/early Jun 48 - "The US Air Force attache in Ankara had a note delivered to him from the Pentagon requesting that he investigate fully, with the help of the Turkish General Staff, the death of a dog in a village near Adapazari [~60 miles ESE of Istanbul - JC]....Classified 'secret,' the episode was named the 'Adapazari Incident' in an information request to the Air Force Chief of Staff, which asked that inquiries be made concerning rumored 'experiments by Russians on Mt. Alagos.'" (Gross)


Air Force Intelligence urged the following: 'Request AMC continue any followups deemed necessary by headquarters, USAF, regarding followups on Turkish report [Adipazari Incident] will be forwarded to Air Materiel Command (Classification of these remarks: SECRET).'" [Gross]

24 Jun 48 - Berlin Blockade begins

10 Jul 48 - "Operation Falun": Swedish pilot Fredrik Lambert-Meuller makes reconnaissance flight over Saaremaa Island, Estonia, in F-51 Mustang equipped with special K-22 high-resolution reconnaissance camera supplied by US in attempt to locate suspected Soviet missile installations (see 18 July 48; 10, 23 Nov 48) ("Bortom Horisonten")



K-22 details: [ ]  [ ]

16-20 Jul 48 - Deployment of US B-29 and F-80 sqdrns to Europe. War appears imminent

18 Jul 48 - Swedish COS Gen Helge Jung personally sights GR crash [] (see 10 July, 24 Aug 48)

21 Jul 48 - AF requests RAND study to "present information that would serve to evaluate the remote possibility that some of the observed objects may be space ships or satellite vehicles" (Project SIGN rpt)

24 Jul 48 - Sighting of "super-rocket" resembling RAND World-Circling Spaceship over SE US by airline pilots Chiles, Whitted

24 Aug 48 - (TS) Col Mallory Recon Branch memo re recent loan of recon cameras to Sweden and Swedish COS Gen Jung sighting. Mentions eastern Baltic islands Dago, Osel (Hiiumaa, Saaremaa, off Estonia) as GR launch sites (see 10 July 48; 18 July 48;10 Nov 48; 31 Aug 49)

24 Aug 48 - (S) Gen C P Cabell memo - Daily Activity Rept - Swedish Foreign Office confidentially informed the US Ambassador in Stockholm that on four to six occasions during the second week of August, unidentified aircraft have flown over Gotland Island. On 13 Aug a Swedish fighter squadron was dispatched to Gotland to patrol and identify. Soviet south Baltic fleet known to be on maneuvers.

Oct 48 - USAF Air Intelligence Digest - Chief of Soviet Long Range Air Force on cover [DA Air Chief Marshal Aleksandr Golovanov]. Under Sweden heading - Fires in the Sky- An increase in number of incidents over Sweden during summer may be connected with Soviet guided missile tests in the Lake Seliger area (57 N. - 33 E.) or along the Baltic coast of Estonia. About 32 launching sites reportedly exist in areas fronting on the Baltic Sea. Swedish sources claim to have confirmed the existence of three such sites. Reoccurrence of so-called rocket incidents over Sweden is important in view of the reported move of Peenemünde launching facilities to locations in the USSR. Earlier, the greatest number of incidents in Scandinavia occurred in 1946, when the Peenemünde facilities reportedly were being used in trial launchings of German World War II missiles then being manufactured in the Soviet Zone of Germany. Sightings of rockets over Scandinavia ceased with the reported removal of Peenemünde facilities but began again almost coincidentally with the reported establishment of test facilities in the USSR. Any missiles being test-fired by the Soviets in areas such as the Baltic probably are slightly improved versions of German World War II types, and those which may be under development at installations in the interior regions of the USSR possibly are more advanced types [Secret][Lake Seliger location is partially correct. Groettrup German rocket team had been transferred to facility in lake on Gorodolmya Island in 1947]

18 Oct 48 - CONFIDENTIAL Gen Holger Toftoy (US Army Ordnance/Rocket) daily log: "Conference attended by Cols Toftoy, Roberts & Bainbridge (CC), Maj J.F. Gay & Dr. J. J. Grebe, (Chemical Corps), and Dr. Mugson. Chemical Corps reported analysis of fragments picked up from '"flying saucer" which vanished with a brilliant flash and bang near Midlin [sic], Michigan. Sand and clinker recovered from the locality contained nuggets of fairly pure silver and some thorium. The thorium was sufficient to give radio activity [sic] approximately 10 times natural background which could possibly be ascribed to thorium coated filaments in electronic equipment, although the quantity seems excessive. There was evidence also of mechanism [magnesium] which had been completely oxidized. Dr. Grebe advanced his hypothesis that small missiles of the order of 1 to 3 feet in diameter might be responsible, coming from distant sources. He considered that a rapidly rotating disc of mechanism [magnesium] and/or aluminum might have enough energy if properly utilized to propel the disc several thousand miles, and might be completely destroyed by burning in air. Remaining traces of silver and thorium might be ascribed to electronic control system. After discussion, it was agreed that Col Roberts should request the Bur of Standards group to investigate some of the mechanisms which might conceivably propel discs of this general type and TU will keep in close touch with these calculations (CMH). A meeting next Monday, 25 Oct, can be arranged with Dr. Grebe if indications are favorable. Dr. Grebe also briefly described a theory of his that a fish-shaped object with a modified tear-drop cross section would take off along the long axis and change position in flight to fly at an angle more like a flying wing. No wings or other aerodynamic surfaces that produce drag would be required."

10 Nov 48 - Second reconnaissance overflight of Saaremaa Island by Swedish F-51 in search of Soviet V-1 and other military installations (see 10 July 48; 24 Aug 48; 23 Nov 48; 31 Aug 49)

12 Nov 48 - meeting at National Bureau of Standards between AF Intelligence Collections Branch, Project SIGN and NBS members re saucer problem. SIGN turns over its case files to AF Intelligence and MIT air defense expert George Valley

18 Nov 48 - BGen Donald Putt, Director AF R&D, writes to RAND to request analysis of "special design and performance characteristics that are believed to distinguish space ships."

23 Nov 48 - Third reconnaissance overflight of Saaremaa Island by Swedish F-51 in search of Soviet V-1 and other military installations (see 10 July 48; 24 Aug 48; 23 Nov 48)

10 Dec 48 - [TS] Air Intelligence Study 100-203-79, " Analysis of Flying Object Incidents in the U.S." concludes that, "Assuming that the objects might eventually be identified as foreign or foreign-sponsored devices, the possible reason for their appearance over the U.S. requires consideration. Several possible explanations appear noteworthy, viz:

  a.   To negate U.S. confidence in the atom bomb as the most advanced and decisive weapon in warfare.
  b.   To perform photographic reconnaissance missions.
  c.   To test U.S. air defenses.
  d.   To conduct familiarization flights over U.S. territory.

13 Dec 48 - RAND's James Lipp sends "space ship" analysis to Putt - becomes Appendix "D" of SIGN report.

16 Dec 48 - Col Gasser of ANP project sends 7 July 47 Presley negatives to WPAFB TID for examination. (see 10 Feb)