Saucers and Science
On October 25, 1955, Donald A. Quarles, Secretary of the Air Force, issued a statement to the press, that as a result of an exhaustive study completed by the Air Force, covering some 316 pages of material replete with charts, drawings and statistical data, the widely reported flying saucers did not actually exist. "On the basis of this study,” said Quarles, "we believe that no objects such as those popularly described as flying saucers have over flown the United States.”
In view of the growing lists of reports of flying saucers and other unidentified flying objects from all parts of the world, many of these reports given by experienced air pilots and other competent observers; this is a most amazing statement. With the evidence for the reality of flying saucers growing stronger day by day, it is hard to understand how such a conclusion could be arrived at. Not long ago, in May 1954 to be specific, seven years after the first reports began piling in, Captain Edward J. Ruppelt, in charge of the official Air Force investigation of unidentified flying objects argued that if flying saucers exist, they are craft from outer space. Being in possession of all the then secret government data on the phenomena and having personally investigated a large number of cases, he was unable to arrive at a definite conclusion as to the real nature of reported sightings. Nothing has transpired since that date to unravel the mysteries of the large number of cases unexplainable in terms of the so-called natural causes. It might also be noted that previously, in July 1952, Major General John A. Samford, Air Force Director of Intelligence, referred to the then "20 per cent of the reports--that have come from credible observers of relatively incredible things."
Air Force Secretary Quarles, in his governmental capacity less than a year and presumably with comparatively little or no background of study of unidentified flying objects, comes forward with a statement which in effect refutes even the former pronouncements of those officials who have given the problem immeasurably more study.
One unfortunate feature of this statement by Secretary Quarles is the fact that with the sensational front-page publicity given to it by all the big city newspapers in the United States, the statement coming as it does from one of the highest ranking officials of the United States government, it is by and large accepted at face value by the rank and file of the citizenry. I have noted that college and university professors, students, and the general public I have encountered seem to have swallowed this statement literally hook, line and sinker. Such is the power of publicity and the nation's press to mold and control public opinion.
One of my alert students who was interested in this subject and "taken in" by this pronouncement of Secretary Quarles was somewhat startled when I suggested that the Air Force Secretary was wrong in his judgment. "Well,” exclaimed this student, "how are we to know what is true and what isn't?" This poses a problem indeed. If, looking for the facts, one can not rely on the highly publicized statements of top ranking government officials, where will one turn to find the truth? Any dissenting viewpoint of an average citizen or even that of a specialist would scarcely secure local press recognition, let alone widespread publicity. Most people depend on the various news media for sources of information. Thus it appears that publicity alone determines the viewpoint of the bulk of the masses and apparently also the so-called well-informed.
Would the Air Force be willing to make its files accessible to physical scientists desiring to advance study in this field? This is a problem in which various branches of the physical science, by the very nature of the phenomena observed, should have an interest. The physical sciences of meteoritics, meteorology, astrophysics, and general physics could find in the data available on this subject many intriguing problems to investigate through the media of physical science technique and method.
Government studies have not been conducted in accordance with the methods of exact science.
The program of investigation has been under the supervision of subordinate military officers whose educational backgrounds have not been those of rigorous scientific study. Such individuals, lacking the precise specialized training of physical scientists in research methods have therefore found it necessary from time to time to avail themselves of the services of panels of scientists and also the part-time services of numerous individual scientists on an advisory oasis. Such an arrangement precludes the possibility of rigorous scientific analysis of the many puzzling features of the problem.
It would seem that the advice of scientists, even though secured from top men in various fields of science, could not possibly be of great value unless the primary interests of these men were in the field of unidentified flying objects. Top flight scientists as a rule are particularly interested only in the fields of research in which they have devoted their major efforts. Advice in a field somewhat distinct from their own could not serve much useful purpose.
Six years' study of this elusive problem has convinced me that any appraisal of phenomena in this field unless backed by considerable effort in getting at the true details, along with countless hours of thought on their interpretation, is of no considerable value. Significant findings in physical science are not usually obtained by panel discussion nor by widespread consultation. These devices might serve to stimulate thinking and to suggest procedures, but not to actually bring to light new findings. The persistent devoted effort of the individual scientist himself alone, free from supervision and in full charge of his research, is necessary if significant advances are to be made.
Moreover in ordinary scientific research new findings are invariably identified by the names of the scientists. In the Air Force studies to date the role of the scientist has been reversed. Instead of being in charge of the investigation he is merely the assistant who complies with the requests of the military. He is asked to aid inexperienced novices in scientific effort. The results of these so-called studies by the military are reported to the top brass, who though even without firsthand knowledge of the problem, have the final say-so to interpret the work and frame the concluding statements. Obviously this is an unsatisfactory situation.
Before any real advance in knowledge of unidentified flying
objects is secured by the military, the problem will have to be worked out by individual scientists. These most certainly will be permitted to assume full responsibility for their findings and like other scientists will have the rightful prerogative of identifying their individual contributions by their names. Moreover their studies will be available to other scientists for critical appraisal. This most certainly is not true at present.
The so-called Air Force study though very extensive, is pitifully limited in its scope. The limitation of the study of the elaborate data so far secured to a statistical evaluation from a pre-determined questionnaire form simply presupposes some pre-knowledge of the type of results to be expected. This procedure has proven effective in simple problems in education, psychology, and the social sciences. It is not a recognized research tool in physical science. The problems of physical science are never solved by such superficial methods. As one progresses in knowledge of any physical phenomenon the surprise element is ever present. The approach to a solution must constantly be changed because of unanticipated findings.
A copy of the "U. S. Air Force Technical Information Sheet, " a questionnaire of eight pages in length, is given in the Appendix of Major Keyhoe's book Flying Saucers From Outer Space, published in 1953. It appears that the Air Force study recently completed is based to a large extent upon the statistical findings secured by analysis of reports furnished from this and similar forms. Nowhere in this particular form (the only one I was able to secure) is there any question pertaining to the phenomenon of "Angel Hair, " and yet one of the most significant patterns of performance associated with unidentified flying objects concerns the circumstances under which this fiberous material is ejected from them.
Another significant finding not determinable through the medium of the questionnaire is the discovery of causes of peculiar changes in the apparent shapes of unidentified flying objects. There is strong evidence that a large number of the objects apparently observed, with their nebulous and variable outlines, are not the real objects, but rather cloud-like shapes lenticular and otherwise of glows and mist surrounding the sometimes obscured solid objects. As a result of such a discovery the statistical frequencies and probabilities secured
from the questionnaire material on shapes and outlines of objects observed would have little value.
The summary statement issued by the Air Force on October 25, 1955, advises that this study "was prepared by a panel of scientists both in and out of the Air Force.” Let it be particularly noted that though this study may have been prepared by a panel of scientists, it is significant that being restricted in their study by merely statistical analysis of data secured from a handed-down form, the scientists were in effect doing the work of subordinate clerks and statisticians.
In the well-documented accounts such as the Mantell case *, where detailed accounts involving perchance significant performances peculiar only to the one incident are vouched for and officially recognized, the statistical analysis of the kind used in the Air Force study fails completely. It is as if the whole problem were attacked with a self-imposed incomplete partial viewpoint.
Another incomplete aspect of the Air Force study is that it seems to include only reports of phenomena observed in the United States. For example, in France alone, according to the French author Aime Michel "a fairly complete account of the flying saucer observations made in France the last few years alone will fill several volumes.” Any study of flying objects which ignores the multidinous sightings elsewhere in the world surely is restricted in its scope.
The study of unidentified flying objects includes a variety of phenomena, many of which the Air Force does not attempt to deny. One such type of object is the so-called green fireball. This type of flying saucer has been observed frequently passing over southwestern United States as well as over Australia and other parts of the world. Dr. Lincoln La Paz, Head of the Department of Meteoritics of the University of New Mexico, has been actively studying this phenomenon for a number of years. No one denies the existence of this type of sky object probably because a scientist of wide reputation regards the phenomenon as real.
The reality of the so-called "Foo-fighters,” another type of unidentified sky object, has not been questioned by flying saucer skeptics, at least not publicly. These luminous objects
* Capt. Thomas Mantell, while pursuing a UFO January 7, 1948, in the vicinity of Fort Knox, Kentucky, in an F-51 fighter aircraft, crashed and was killed. The UFO, observed from Godman AFB tower, was a huge round glowing object which outdistanced the F-51.
small size and remarkable performance were encountered by aviators of both the Allies and the Nazis during the last World War and by American aviators in the Korean conflict. Because of the great number of similar incidents noted by experienced airmen in which these mysterious lights figured, no skeptic has ventured to deny that these objects have been seen.
There have been thousands of reports of circular and disc-shaped objects recorded since the spring of 1947. During the past three years and in increasing number, there have been reports of larger cigar-shaped objects seen along with smaller discs, or what were originally called "flying saucers." The Air Force pronouncement denies that such objects have flown over the United States even though literally hundreds of experienced airmen have testified as having encountered them and having observed them simultaneously, visually and on radar. It should not be overlooked that of all persons qualified to judge what they have seen, none are more competent than they who are the professional airmen.
A significant feature noted in the study of these various mysterious sky objects is that steadily with the passage of time the evidence for their reality keeps on accumulating. It is believed that little by little the various patterns of appearance and performance of these at present unidentified objects will become more clear and understandable. As long as the reports of these phenomena continue to be cumulative, and this feature has been noted time and time again, there is every good reason to believe that scientific knowledge of these strange sky objects will continue to grow. The many intriguing features of this study should certainly before long challenge the alert and serious minded scientists in increasing numbers.
The approach of physical science to the study of unexplained phenomena usually follows more or less the same pattern. Various observations occurring under similar conditions or possessing elements or similarity under diverse conditions are interpreted by an imaginative scientific mind in terms of an arbitrary theoretical picture which tentatively seems to fit the facts as observed. The theoretical picture fitting in with available observed facts suggests other possibilities of performance consistent with the requirements of the assumed theory. These predicted possibilities are then checked against actual observations either in the laboratory as in physics with a controlled set-up, or as in astronomy by persistent close
survey of accumulating details where laboratory examination is not possible.
The observed details of flying saucer appearance and performance fit remarkably well into a theory based upon the idea of a localized gravitational field. This theory is described with particular clarity in the French treatise Lueurs sur Les Soucoupes Volantes by Aime Michel. In this splendidly written book Michel gives a clear-cut picture of the created gravitational field principle in its application to flying saucer appearance and performance as developed by the brilliant young Frenchman Lieutenant Plantier. The localized gravitational field explanation is also the viewpoint of Professor Hermann Oberth of Germany, an internationally known authority on guided missiles and the conquest of space.
It should be noted that at the present time the top university and industrial laboratories and research centers of the United States and other countries are devoting great effort in the attempt to solve the secret of gravitational force. This concerted drive by scientists could with very little effort be associated with the rapidly mounting data about unidentified flying objects, which data fits into patterns of performance and appearance of gravity-controlled machines.
In a brief discussion such as this, one cannot amplify in detail the multitudinous evidences supporting the gravitational field idea but it can be demonstrated at length that these evidences are available. My personal investigations bear out perfectly the observations listed by Lt. Plantier in his analysis. * The concept of space travel through the device of gravity provides a logical explanation of the following features of flying saucer phenomena:
* A full discussion of Lt. Plantier’s theory is now included in an English edition of Michel's book entitled The Truth about Flying Saucers, Criterion Books, 1956.
The Air Force policy of dispatching jet planes to pursue typical flying saucers whenever these are sighted is open to question. In spite of the fact that this has been done in the literally hundreds of instances, nothing appears to have been gained by so doing. In no case has a pursuing jet plane been able to catch up with the unidentified flying object except those in situations where it has apparently been permitted to do so by the intelligences controlling the maneuvers of the UFO. The usual policy of the UFO is to avoid contact with jet pursuers and, as a rule; the UFO will rapidly disappear from the scene in a tremendous burst of speed. It has been plainly apparent for some time that jet planes or any known type of air device cannot cope with the superior maneuvering of these objects. Moreover there is no evidence that UFOs have at any time attacked planes. There have been a few notable instances where tragedy has resulted as a consequence of a plane having come too close to a UFO. Two of the best known of these are the Captain Mantell case cited, and the Kinross incident of November 23, 1953. The latter case is described and analyzed in detail in Major Keyhoe's book, The Flying Saucer Conspiracy, (Henry Holt, 1955.)
It would appear that this pursuit policy fails to accomplish anything positive. It would also seem that such a policy exhibits unfriendliness, where possibly none would be meant, within the area of the United States. To judge by known incidents of Soviet attacks on American planes in the vicinity of communist territory, it would appear that UFOs also would be subject to hostile action anywhere within the Soviet-controlled territory. Thus the net world-over impression given to those controlling the scouting activities of UFOs is on the
whole hostile and unfriendly. If the US Air Force displayed friendliness toward these mysterious visitors from outer space the results could be beneficial --who knows?
A curious contradiction becomes apparent when one discusses this phase of UFOs. If according to the findings of the Air Force Intelligence these flying saucers do not exist, why is it that the Air Force expends so much effort, time, and expense in pursuing them? If the Air Force has finally discovered that they have been chasing will-o-the-wisps, is it not about time that a change in policy is in order?
Dr. Donald Menzel, professor of Astrophysics at Harvard University, author of textbooks and popular scientific articles, is well known among the intelligentsia class for his treatise on "Flying Saucers." * In fact whenever some student of flying saucer phenomena casually reveals his interest in the subject to one of these intelligentsia the latter's eyebrows will rise very noticeably and his face will momentarily brighten into a condescending smile as he confidently refers to the Harvard professor's authoritative work on the subject.
Such an answer was received by Mr. Ted Bloecher, Director of Research of Civilian Saucer Intelligence of New York, in answer to a letter recently sent to Mr. David Dietz, Science Editor of the Scripps-Howard newspapers. Mr. Bloecher asked for Mr. Dietz's opinion on flying saucer phenomena. Mr. Dietz's reply was terse and to the point: "I think the explanation of flying saucers is very simple and that you will find it in the book titled 'Flying Saucers' by Dr. Donald H. Menzel, director of the Harvard Observatory."
In reply to this answer Mr. Bloecher advised Mr. Dietz that he was perfectly familiar with Dr. Menzel's book and that when it first came out he had studied it carefully. Among the observations of Mr. Bloecher was that of the 1,157 unexplained saucer sightings listed by Dr. Menzel he attempts to apply his "mirage" theory to only 14. Mr. Bloecher also called attention to the French treatise by Michel which by detailed analysis debunks the theories of Menzel.
But one does not have to cross the Atlantic to get an evaluation of Dr. Menzel's work. Captain Ruppelt, from 1951 to 1953 in charge of Project Blue Book (the official U. S. A. F. investigation of UFOs), makes the following statement in an article published in True magazine in May 1954. Referring to Dr. Menzel's "mirage" theory, Capt. Ruppelt says: "His explanation failed to account for the many cases where there
* Harvard University Press, 1953
was a simultaneous radar fix on a UFO and a visual sighting. Mirages and reflections can and do fool the naked eye, but they don't show up simultaneously on a radar scope."
On the one batch of spectacular UFOs that looked as if they ought to have a meteorological explanation, the (mirage) explanation collapsed. These were the flock of green fireballs that appeared in the Southwest.
Thanks to the courage, the untiring industry, and the devotion to truth of Major Donald E. Keyhoe, USMC (Ret.), noted aeronautical engineer, aviator, and former information chief for the U. S. Department of Commerce, Aeronautics Branch, hitherto unknown information on UFOs is now being made known. In his book The Flying Saucer Conspiracy, Major Keyhoe has not only disclosed much interesting data on recent UFO activity, but also has set forth in detail facts which disclose the cover-up policies of the Air Force brass, the instances of effort at concealment of fact, and the harsh punishment threatening personnel of the Air Force who reveal UFO information to the public.
In this significant undertaking of Major Keyhoe's he secured the cooperation of many loyal Americans connected with the U. S. Air Force directly and indirectly, whose names in many instances could not be disclosed for fear of reprisal by higher-ups. The information supplied in this book will be news to government officials, Senators, Congressmen, newspaper editors, university professors, and many other supposedly well-informed persons. The revelations by Major Keyhoe should arouse public sentiment and stir world leaders to demand that the truth be told.
C. A. M. February 1956