It’s Hard to Brush off Latest ‘Saucers’

By Douglas Larsen 

Source: Albuquerque (NM) Tribune 7/31/52 P11 

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WASHINGTON (NEA) – The flying saucers are back.

            And their return to the headlines has been the result of a startling new development.

            For the first time, numerous and simultaneous visual sightings have been positively confirmed by official Civil Aeronautics administration radar observations.  This has happened twice under almost identical circumstances on two successive Saturday nights.

            Up until now official and unofficial saucer debunkers have produced credible theories to explain away reports of visual sightings as natural phenomena.  They have done the same for individual radar sighting reports.

            But none of this reasoning satisfactorily explains away visual sightings absolutely confirmed by radar.




            This remarkable new chapter in the weird flying saucer story was written in the skies over Washington for six hours before dawn on Sunday, July 20, and again one week later.  The details and the implications of what took place are now confirmed by CAA and the Air Force.

            Since then the Air Force has quietly said it was closing to the press its special section at Wright Field in Dayton, O., which has been studying flying saucer reports.  In addition, all information concerning that group’s personnel, activities and budget is now strictly classified.

            Full details of what happened the first night are being revealed for the first time by NEA Service.

            These are the facts:

            Beginning shortly after midnight, and continuing until dawn, eight experienced CAA radar operators and technicians, manning the air route traffic control center in hanger No. 6 at National Airport, tracked from seven to ten unidentifiable and mysterious objects performing strange gyrations in the skies in a 30-mile radius above Washington.

            Harry G. Barnes, who has been with CAA for nine years, mostly in radar work, was in charge of the group.  After making sure that the objects were not known aircraft and that the radar was operating perfectly, he checked his findings with the radar operators in the control tower.  They instantly confirmed what he saw, and continued to do so.  The two radars are completely separate units.

            Later the radar at nearby Andrews Air Force base also confirmed the sightings.

            When the center radar showed one of the unidentified objects in a low position in the northwest sky, the operators in the tower were able to see it.  One of then, Howard Cocklin, who has been with CAA for five years, describes it:

            “It was a good-sized light, yellow to orange in color.  At first it looked like a great big star.  Then it began to move in a manner which made you realize it couldn’t be a star.  There was no unusual high speed about its movements and at times it seemed to hover.  We could see it moving around like that for about 15 minutes.  It just disappeared into the northwest sky.”

            There are no windows in the center Barnes was operating.  None of the eight men could leave to go outside to try to check their own radar sightings visually.

            As is normal at that time air traffic was very light.  But at the first opportunity an operator in Barnes’ office contacted Capital Airlines pilot Capt. S. C. Pierman shortly after he took off and asked him to look for the objects.

            For about 14 minutes, Pierman was in direct, two-way communication with Barnes.  While he was within radar range, Pierman was able to see six objects which showed up on the path indicated by the center’s radar.  Pierman’s sightings reported to Barnes coincided exactly with the radar sightings Barnes reports.

            Pierman is a 17-year veteran of commercial flying and is described by Capital Airlines officials as very level-headed and “taciturn.”  After he landed in Detroit Pierman had this to say about the sightings:

            “In my years of flying I’ve seen a lot of falling or shooting stars – whatever you call them – but these were much faster than anything like that I’ve ever seen.  They were moving too fast for that.  They were about the same size as the brighter stars.  And they were much higher than our 6,000-foot altitude.  I couldn’t estimate the speed accurately.  Please remember I didn’t speak of them as flying saucers – only very fast moving lights.”

            Charles Wheaton, first officer on the flight with Pierman, a veteran of 12 years of flying confirms Pierman’s sightings and adds:

            “Before the other night, I always discounted alleged flying saucers as atmospheric phenomenon.  But now I feel I have actually seen some active strange objects which defy explanation.”

            Another Capital Airlines pilot also reported seeing a light off his wing, which showed up in that position on the radar scope.  Other pilots in the air that night, Barnes reveals, appeared to be reluctant to discuss the subject with him on the radio.

            The mystery of the flying saucers had its start on June 24, 1947, when a Boise, Idaho, businessman, Kenneth Arnold, flew his private plane over the jagged peaks of Washington’s Mt. Rainer.  When he landed, he breathlessly reported having seen “a chain of nine saucer-like objects playing tag at fantastic speeds.”

            Since then there have been thousands of sightings all over the world, many obviously reported by crackpots.  But a substantial number have been so strange and reliably described, even the Air Force has had to admit that they were unexplainable.

            Many books have been written on the subject.  Hundreds of magazine articles have treated all aspects of the question.  However, a review of most of what has been written and officially reported on the subject points up several unique aspects to the recent Washington sightings:

            It’s the first time that three separate radar sets have reported identical sightings.

            It’s the first time they have remained under observation in one area for so long a time.

            It’s the first time so many completely responsible men, including radar operators and pilots, all observed and reported the same thing at the same time, with all reports checking so accurately.

            Both nights there were scores of unofficial stories of persons in the area who claim to have seen one or more strange lights moving about in the sky.

            Saul Pett, a news service reporter in River Edge, N. J., wrote a detailed story on one that he saw just before seven objects appeared on the CAA radar screen at National Airport.  He said:

            “It looked like a sphere, so deeply orange colored that it appeared almost the shade of rust.  It was silent as death.  It was moving too fast and evenly to be a balloon.  I saw a flying saucer and you can’t convince me that there is no such animal.”

            He said it disappeared in the direction of Washington.

            The Air Force has the responsibility of finding out what there is to the saucer reports.  After two years’ study it finally reported in 1950:

            “All evidence and analyses indicate that the reports of unidentified flying objects are the result of:

(1)    Misinterpretation of various conventional objects; (2) a mild form of mass hysteria; (3) or hoaxes.”

            Lt. Col. DeWitt R. Searles, an Air Force press officer, was given the job of officially denying the existence of saucers from then on.  His file on the subject was labeled “death of the saucers.”

            On June 17 of this year, however, Col. Searles was forced to reveal a slight alteration in the Air Force stand on saucers.  He issued a statement which said:

            “No concrete evidence has yet reached us to either prove or disprove the existence of the so-called flying saucers.  However there remain a number of sightings which have not been satisfactorily explained.  As long as this is true the Air Force will continue to investigate flying saucer reports.”

            Air Force reaction to the recent Washington sightings has been curious, and its reports have been conflicting.  A few minutes after CAA confirmed its sightings on the 20th it reported the fact to the Air Force in a normal but classified procedure.

            For the next several days the Air Force claimed that its radar at nearby Andrews Air Force base did not confirm the findings of the CAA radar.  Later, however, the Air Force reversed itself and admitted that the Andrews radar did pick up the objects fours hours after the first CAA report.

            On July 20, then, the strange objects appeared on three separate radar sets for two hours.  A week later the Air Force admitted that its Andrews radar had practically identical sightings to the other two all evening.

            The first night no fighter planes went aloft to investigate the sightings.  A week later, however, the Air Force sent up jets to try to get a closer look at the objects.

            The only report from the fighter pilots was that they saw strange lights, moving too fast for the 600 mph jets to intercept.

            Another conflicting Air Force report concerns a saucer expert from the now barricaded unit at Dayton, E. J. Ruppelt.  He “happened” to be in town at the time.  And AF spokesman said that he would interview all of the persons involved in the sightings.

            A week later, however, Capt. Ruppelt had left town and had not contacted a single one of the CAA persons involved.  Col. Searles reported that he had taken a copy of Barnes’ brief summary report in long hand over the telephone next day.  That constitutes the Air Forces’ only official recognition of the events of the 20th.  The AF, however, now promises to make a thorough investigation of the events of both nights.

             In the unofficial category of saucer study is the theory of Dr. Donald H. Menzel, a Harvard professor of astrophysics.  It seems to have had most effect in debunking saucer reports among the experts.

            He says visual sightings could be ordinary lights which are reflected from warm layers of air.  And he says radar can produce a false pip in the same way.

            According to several experts in Washington, who asked not to be quoted, Menzel’s theory does not account for the simultaneous visual and radar sightings.

            Further, it isn’t likely that any warm layer of reflecting air would have remained constant for so long a period over Washington that night.

            Coincidental with the recent Washington sightings and increased report of saucer sightings all over the U. S. this summer, has been increased rumors around the Pentagon and from other government agencies attempting to explain saucers.  And they appear to be coming from more reliable sources, although these sources continue to refuse to let themselves to be identified.

            Most persistent rumor is that Boeing Airplane Co. in Seattle, Wash., is either making flying saucers or has been in charge of the engineering of the project.  The rumor goes that very small parts of the saucers are being made by widely scattered subcontractors and that finished items are being assembled at some remote site.

            A Boeing spokesman in Seattle flatly denies this rumor, as does the Air Force.

            The descriptions of the saucers which have been sighted indicate that some radically new source of power would be needed to make the objects move as fast as they did.

            If this is true it doesn’t make sense that the Air Force would be expending such a tremendous effort to improve its present jet engines which would be made completely obsolete by the new source of power.  Nor would the Air Force be likely to have its saucers practice maneuvers early Sunday morning around Washington.

            In the weirder category of rumors is the one that the saucers are either Russian-built or from another planet and that several of them have crashed and have been picked up by the Air Force.  It goes on to theorize that the Air Force has been able to repair some of them and make them operate and at the same time is trying to build some of its own just like them.

            This would account for the Air Force being extremely interested in some sightings, and apparently very disinterested in others.

            Col. Searles, who has had more experience in denying saucer rumors than anyone in the Pentagon, just laughs at this idea.

            But nobody is really laughing at the strange objects tracked by radar over the nation’s capital.


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