PART II: A Scientist Looks at UFOs
Scientist Finds Some Saucer Reports still to be Satisfactorily Explained
The subject of flying saucers has from time to time engaged the attention of the American public since the summer of 1947. On June 24 of that year a businessman, Kenneth Arnold, flying in his private plane over the Cascade Mountains in the state of Washington, reported observing a chain of nine disc-shaped objects flying with tremendous speed.
The objects sailed over the peaks in a manner resembling the skipping of flat stones thrown across the surface of a pond. Mr. Arnold described the unidentifiable objects as "flying saucers." The story of his fantastic experience captured the fancy of the public. Since that date literally thousands of reports of strange aerial phenomena from all parts of the world have been reported by the press from week to week.
It would take volumes to describe in detail all the phenomena said to have been observed in the skies over this planet during the past eight years. There are historical records going back into the remote past giving isolated instances of strange unexplainable aerial occurrences. But starting in 1947, the number of such reports suddenly increased a thousand fold.
In spite of all the material available to the serious student of these phenomena, very little is definitely known. Controversy still rages between those who doubt the reality of these sightings and those who declare that they are definitely what they appear to be, actual fast-moving material objects seemingly intelligently maneuvered.
The Air Force Technical Intelligence Center at Wright-Patterson Field, Dayton, maintains a continuing investigation of such reports. The Department of the Air Force recently issued a detailed statement on this subject which can probably best be summarized by the following excerpt:
"The Air Force would like to state that no evidence has been received which would tend to indicate that the United States is being observed by machines from outer space or a foreign government. No object or particle of an unknown substance has been received and no photographs of detail have been produced."
Only one American institution of higher learning has sponsored research in this field. Ohio Northern University undertook such a study in August, 1952, under the leadership of a former dean of that institution, Dr. Warren Hichman. The project was closed two years later voluntarily because of the inability of those in charge of the study to secure sufficient cooperation from other agencies elsewhere similarly engaged, to share like information.
Quoting from the report of this university: "Project A is closing merely because we possess no means of obtaining further information with which to make a study." The work at Ohio Northern did lead, however, to the statement of a definite conclusion arrived at by the group in charge. This reads in part as follows:
"...a sizeable fraction of the sightings throughout the country were sightings made of material objects... not standard aircraft... possessing ability to maneuver at extremely high speeds."
Very few American scientists have as yet committed themselves publicly as believing that these unidentified flying objects actually do exist, although a number have expressed doubt as to the reality of the phenomena. In this connection it might be interesting to note an extract quoted from a directive issued by an Air Force officer a short time ago. This reads as follows:
"At this time we are experiencing renewed reporting of unidentified flying objects by ground observer personnel. This information is invaluable to the Air Force in evaluating the situations surrounding the sightings of flying objects. "
One prominent aeronautical specialist expressing himself on this topic is Major Donald E. Keyhoe, former chief of information for the Aeronautics Branch, Department of Commerce,
author of The Flying Saucers Are Real, * and Flying Saucers From Outer Space. ** Major Keyhoe states positively his belief that these objects originate from outer space.
Dr. Maurice A. Biot, a leading aerodynamicist in the United States and a prominent mathematical physicist, is quoted by Life magazine as declaring: "The least improbable explanation is that these things are artificial and controlled... My opinion for some time has been that they have an extraterrestrial origin. "
A few aeronautical engineers of other nations have definitely given expression to their convictions on this subject. These include Dr. Walther Riedel, now in the employ of the United States Government, formerly chief designer at the German rocket laboratory at Peenemunde, who says: "I am completely convinced that they (flying saucers) have an out-of-world basis." ***
The American Weekly of October 24, 1954, quotes Professor Hermann Oberth of Germany, an internationally known authority on guided missiles and whose technical writings were said to be of vital importance in the development of the Germans' famous V-2 rocket, who argues: "It is my thesis that flying saucers are real and that they are space ships from another solar system."
The London Sunday Dispatch quotes British Air Chief Marshal Lord Dowding, commander-in-chief of the Royal Air Force and one of Britain's foremost aviation experts as stating: "I have never seen a flying saucer, and yet I believe that they exist."
The material presented in this article covers one type of these strange occurrences which recently have attracted quite a bit of attention among those interested in the study of the subject. One of the most interesting happenings took place not long ago in Ohio.
This occurred last October 22, some 15 miles northwest of Columbus. The pupils of Jerome Elementary School had been granted an extra recess that afternoon as a reward for good behavior. As described by one of the two teachers of the school, Mrs. George W. Dittmar, "It was one of those glorious warm fall days and the whole sky was a clear blue."
The attention of the children became directed toward a strange object in the sky circling high above the school. The
* Fawcett Gold Medal Books; now out of print ** Henry Holt & Co., 1953.
*** Life; April 7, 1952. **** Life, op cit.
object was dazzling bright and cigar-shaped. The children watched the object a while before thinking to call their principal, R. R. Warrick. In response to their shouts Mr. Warrick came out to the fire escape in time to observe the object at that moment hanging high and motionless in the sky. Then the ship made off at tremendous speed, disappearing rapidly from view.
Mr. Warrick called Mrs. Dittmar, who at once came out on the fire escape too late to observe the object, but in time to witness a most beautiful scene. For, as the object darted away there appeared another strange sight. The air as high and far around as the teachers and children could see was filled with "the most beautiful soft white looking tufts like cotton slowly floating to the ground." Mr. Warrick said it was almost at once as the object disappeared that this material began to show in the sky. For about 45 minutes they watched this fibrous material floating downward.
The children brought up pieces of it to the fire escape for Mr. Warrick and Mrs. Dittmar to examine. In the words of Mrs. Dittmar "the substance had long fibers very much as if someone had taken strands of 'angel hair' and pushed some in bunches toward the middle or end, leaving a trail of fibers attached to it. It was very fine and soft to touch. It did not stick to our hands, but when we held two ends and pulled, it stretched without tearing. Where it stretched it had a shiny appearance. The part we held between our fingers very quickly seemed to go to nothing.
"However, we could roll it between our fingers into a very, very tiny ball. In a short while our hands had a green stain on them. I soon washed my hands in warm water and the stain rinsed quickly off. Mr. Warrick said he was leaving his on his hands to see what would happen. He later said his hands became clammy and finally the color disappeared of its own accord."
Mrs. Dittmar goes on to say, "When we left the school, we noticed it clinging to the grass, flagpole, and some on the cars. I believe the thing that impressed me even further was what we saw as we drove the three miles to the Columbus road. The telephone wires were completely woven shut, as if hands had carefully spread 'angel hair' out very evenly. Not only this, but the telephone wires were connected to the electric wires on the other side of the road, so that it was
like a misty canopy over the road for three miles. No more seemed to be coming down by this time."
In addition to the statements by Mrs. Dittmar and Mr. Warrick, it seemed advisable to get testimony from the children. So in answer to my request Mrs. Dittmar suggested to some of the sixth grade pupils that a college professor would like their stories about what they had seen. Letters from six of the children were received. Mrs. Dittmar wrote that she had "no desire to try to excite the children or work them up in any way." But those that did write, freely and on their own account and without any prompting or suggestions from their teacher, were more impressed by the fact that a college professor was interested in getting letters from them than by their strange experience. Mrs. Dittmar explained, "I did not tell them to write the paper. I did not tell them what to write. "
The letters of the children are most interesting, each telling in his own words what he or she saw. These letters support in an impressive way the more detailed statements of the teachers. There is no question in my own mind of the sincerity and truthfulness of these statements. The writer makes no effort to interpret the phenomenon witnessed by these two teachers and their pupils. It is up to the reader to pass judgment as to the reality of what was experienced.
Other similar occurrences also can be brought up for review. A reporter for the Valley Times, North Hollywood, California, told of a similar event in the San Fernando Valley, November 16, 1953. Mr. and Mrs. Louis Dangelo and neighbors were watching three jet planes, when behind the planes they noticed a silvery ball. The jet planes landed and Mrs. Dangelo describes what then took place. The silvery ball "moved up and down and even sideways. Finally a long streamer of white stuff--almost like a vapor trail--spewed out its back end. It detached itself from the ball and began settling earthward. It spread out, stringy, sort of like white wool being shredded, and it dropped down all over the neighborhood like cobwebs. Wires running to our homes turned white. They still sparkle at night. "
Samples of this material were secured by an engineer of Lockheed Aircraft Corporation. Engineers from North American Aviation and from Douglass Aircraft also were on the scene. Reports are that the material "could not be analyzed.” Quoting further from the Valley Times article, "the material looks like finely shredded wool or spun glass.
Held between the fingers for a few moments, it dissolves into nothing. Mrs. Dangelo, describing its static qualities, said it often seemed to 'jump' from a bush or tree and cling to one's hair." The newspaper published three photographs of the material.
Lt. Col. James C. McNamara, USAR, in Pageant magazine for November, 1954, tells of a similar incident occurring on February 1, 1954, also in the San Fernando Valley. This phenomenon was observed from two localities independently by different persons.
On that same day some 30 miles away in the San Fernando Valley, Mrs. Mel Barnes was watching a jet plane maneuvering. Then she saw a "round ball near the plane, but going faster than it. The ball was about three times the size of a full moon. It was plain, dead white, but didn't glisten. Suddenly a stream of white lacy substance flowed from the ball. Then the ball went straight up and disappeared. "
The material fell over an area estimated as three city blocks. It caught on trees, fences, and telephone wires. An investigator from Lockheed Aircraft Corporation secured a sample of the material.
The Oakland, California, Tribune told of a sighting at Pleasant Hill, Calif., and a like recovery of whitish substance emitted by the objects.
A number of reports of like phenomena observed in other parts of the world have been noted in recent years--in Australia, France and Italy.
Upon the basis of the accounts, it is not possible, of course, to arrive at very definite conclusions as to the true character of the phenomena described. It is contended, however, that material has been presented which forcibly points to the reality of what has taken place in many places at various recent times throughout the world. It is difficult to understand how one could conclude that all of these incidents are delusions, hallucinations, mirages, skyhook balloons, the planet Venus or what have you. And yet these are the so-called deductions of many orthodox scientists.
One feature of the problem is the tendency of some scientists to issue statements denying the validity of reports on saucer sightings along with unqualified ridicule of the entire subject and all persons connected with it. It is quite apparent to a serious student in this field that those responsible for such statements have made little if any serious effort to
investigate for themselves. It is recognized that such persons within their own fields of specialization might be thorough and cautious in arriving at conclusions. It may be questioned whether a true scientist would be prone to ridicule the claims of any field of investigation not his own, certainly not until he has patiently and thoroughly attempted to evaluate a considerable body of the material pertaining to that field.
The true scientific attitude or approach to any subject for investigation is that of an open mind--to let the facts as they can be best appraised spell out the conclusions.
C. A. M. May, 1, 1955