CHAPTER V

 

The Powder Keg

 

 

Since 1947, as General Samford knew, the Air Force had frequently tried to debunk the flying saucers. Each time it had been more difficult. How could it be done now, with any hope of success?

            It was impossible to go back to the 1949 statement, which explained away all sightings. For the Air Force was now on record that many were still unsolved. The latest figure, given out by Captain Ruppelt, was 25 per cent; some Intelligence officers privately made it much higher.

            Even admitting that 25 per cent were unsolved was misleading, for it evaded the basic facts. Actually, the Air Force reports showed nearly 500 genuine saucer sightings. The excitement created by these authentic accounts had caused many erroneous reports. But this did not change the basic situation.

            Instead of admitting this, a reverse approach had been used. The implication was plain: If the Air Force could solve 75 per cent of the cases, probably the rest could be explained, with a more scientific analysis.

            Misleading or not, this reverse approach would have to be the foundation for debunking the saucers now. Samford's problem, then, was to explain the remaining 25 per cent. He could say that the saucers were probably some 

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strange phenomena, completely outside our present understanding. Even some Air Force officers, who didn't know the facts, believed this was true. But it ignored the sighting patterns and the proof of definitely controlled maneuvers.

            How many shrewd newsmen would swallow this vague answer after the Washington sightings?

            The high speeds and maneuvers, General Samford knew, had to have a specific answer. What made it harder was the simultaneous visual sightings and radar trackings, especially the accurate pinpointing by the Center and Andrews Field. There had to be some explanation, or the newsmen would be on him like hawks.

            There was one loophole—the temperature-inversion theory publicized by Doctor Menzel.

            Samford and his Intelligence staff already knew the theory. It was based on an effect well known to scientists. Ordinarily, air gets colder as altitude increases, but under certain conditions there may be layers of warm air with cool air underneath.

            Since light rays move slower in a denser medium, they are refracted, or bent, as they pass from cold to warm air. It is this which causes mirages on deserts or on heated roads where motorists seem to see pools of water ahead. Like light, radar waves also move more slowly in a denser medium and are bent in the same way. When a temperature inversion is strong enough, it will cause a refraction effect.

            According to Menzel, observers reporting saucer lights had been misled by reflections, either of ground lights or of the stars, tire moon, or the sun. In the same way he explained radar saucers as ground objects picked up by deflected radar beams, then re-reflected by the inversion layer to show on scopes as strange blips. The apparent high speeds and violent maneuvers, he added, were caused by reflections of moving objects such as cars or trains, or by turbulence in the inversion. In the latter case the agitated 

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air reflected the light or radar waves unevenly, creating false effects of motion even from fixed objects.

            During July several prominent scientists had refused to accept Menzel's claims. But few of the public knew this. Even General Samford, at that time, did not have all the evidence against the astronomer's theory.

            Regardless of its merits, it offered the only out. It did explain a small number of sightings, perhaps two to three per cent. Some Intelligence officers were afraid it might backfire; there was one key fact in the Washington cases which would blow it sky-high. But so far this fact had escaped the press. If no one brought it up, the answer might stick.

            No one in Intelligence, from General Samford on down, wanted to take this step. But after the press conference order, they had no choice.

            It was obvious that General Samford should not face the press alone. He would have to have help, not only in covering technical angles but in handling dangerous questions. With a large group, questions could be passed back and forth to give the Director a breathing spell.

            When the details were worked out, the conference was set for July 29. The group would include several UFO experts from ATIC—Colonel Donald L. Bower, of the Technical Analysis Division, Captain Ed Ruppelt from Project Bluebook, Captain Roy L. James, Mr. B. L. Griffing, and other civilian specialists from the Electronics Branch. To cover the interception angles, Major General Roger M. Ramey, Chief of the Air Defense Command, would be on hand with some of his staff.

            Up to the very last, the Intelligence officers hoped that the conference would be canceled. But the sightings, instead of letting up, were still increasing.

            That very morning Army officers and Indiana state police had watched a weird "dogfight" between several discs over Indianapolis. Three hours later a saucer had scouted the atomic energy plant at Los Alamos, racing off  

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at high speed when Air Force jets went after it. Other Intelligence reports, coming in by teletype, hinted that the 29th would be a peak day in this July saucer cycle.

            By noon the Air Force had still another headache. The night before a story by INS had reported a new Air Force order—if saucers ignored orders to land, pilots were to open fire. At Washington, Frank Edwards had picked up the flash and repeated it on the Mutual network. Telegrams protesting the order were now coming in from all over the country. One, typical of the rest, came from Rob­ert L. Farnsworth, president of the U. S. Rocket Society. Also wiring the White House, Farnsworth gave United Press a copy of his message to help arouse the nation. It read:

            "I respectfully suggest that no offensive action be taken against the objects . . . Should they be extraterrestrial, such action might result in the gravest consequences, as well as alienating us from beings of far superior powers. Friendly contact should be sought as long as possible."

            Under this new barrage General Samford gave up his last-ditch attempt to postpone the conference. By this time no one could have stopped it without a disastrous flare-back. Many people would have suspected some frightening answer too terrible to make public.

            It was nearly 12 o'clock when an Air Force officer phoned me that the conference would be at 4. Thinking it would be sooner, I'd planned to fly to New York at 5, to be ready for radio and television dates on the following day. On the way in, I stopped at the airport, switched my reservation to 7 o'clock, and then drove on to the Pentagon.

            At 3:50 the conference room was half-filled. I recognized C. B. Allen, aviation man for the New York Herald Tribune; Gunnar Back, television commentator; Clay Blair of Life; Doug Larsen of NEA; and a dozen others from big-city papers and national magazines. By 4 o'clock the room was packed with top correspondents, wire-service  

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men, and commentators. I hadn't seen a bigger turnout since the A-bomb story broke.

            Promptly on the minute, General Samford came in, a stockily built man with whimsical blue eyes. His shrewd, pleasant face showed no hint of concern—it was not for nothing that he was Director of Air Force Intelligence.

            Behind Samford came Major General Ramey, a florid-faced, serious-looking officer. Their advisers spread out around the platform—an impressive group of colonels, majors, captains, and civilian specialists. Only Ruppelt came near to matching Samford's unconcerned look. Most of the others were sober-faced, and with good reason.

            For the next hour or so they would be sitting on a powder keg. Two simple questions would light the fuse. All they could do was pray that nobody thought to ask them.

            In his opening remarks, General Samford set a pattern which he used later in answering difficult questions. Normally, Samford is not a verbose man: on occasion he can be as terse as a drill sergeant. But clipped words, short sentences, often give a dramatic effect, and the Director wanted no drama here. A dry, academic approach was the best answer, and Samford did his utmost to set the pattern.

            "I think the plan is to have very brief opening remarks," he said in a slow, unruffled voice, "and then ask for such questions as you may want to put to us for discussion and answer. Insofar as opening remarks are concerned, I just want to state our reason for concern about this.

            "The Air Force feels a very definite obligation to identify and analyze things that happen in the air that may have in them menace to the United States and, because of that feeling of obligation and our pursuit of that interest, since 1947, we have an activity that was known one time as Project Saucer (press name for Project Sign) and now, as part of another more stable and integrated organization, have undertaken to analyze between a thousand and two thousand reports dealing with this area. And out of that  

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mass of reports that we've received we've been able to take things which were originally unidentified and dispose of them to our satisfaction in terms of bulk where we came to the conclusion that these things were either friendly aircraft erroneously recognized or reported, hoaxes—quite a few of those—electronic and meteorological phenomena of one sort or another, light aberrations, and many other things."

            The general's involved sentences could not have been better calculated to ease the tension. Already the saucers seemed a little less real. He went on in the same detached, academic manner.

            "However, there have remained a percentage of the total, in the order of 20 per cent of the reports that have come from credible observers of relatively incredible things. And because of those things not being possible for us to move along and associate with the kind of things that we've found can be associated with the bulk of these reports; we keep on being concerned about them.

            "However, I'd like to say that the difficulty of disposing of these reports is largely based upon the lack of any standard measurement or any ability to measure these things which have been reported briefly by some, more elaborately by others, but with no measuring devices that can convert the thing or idea or the phenomenon into something that becomes manageable as material for the kind of analysis that we know."

            Several reporters looked at each other blankly. The man on my right leaned over to me.

            "If he's trying to befuddle us, he's already got me," he whispered.

            The general went on for two or three minutes.

            "Our real interest in this project is not one of intellectual curiosity, but is in trying to establish and appraise the possibility of a menace to the United States. And we can say, as of now, that there has been no pattern that reveals anything remotely like purpose or remotely like consistency 

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that we can in any way associate with any menace to the United States."

            Here, I knew, Samford was skating on thin ice. Even before I saw all the ATIC evidence, I had enough reports that did show a definite pattern. But it was the general's job to dispel public fear, and admitting a pattern would only have increased it.

            After mentioning reports of strange aerial objects back in biblical times, Samford threw the conference open for questions. In giving the questions and answers here, I have taken them verbatim from the official transcript. It is not a complete account—the conference lasted 80 minutes, and many questions were unimportant. But all the main points are included.

            Since reporters did not identify themselves, the transcript shows queries as merely from "the press." In one or two cases I have identified men whom I recognized.

            General Samford's preliminary remarks had, somehow, lifted the saucers into a distant, shadowy realm. But the first question briskly brought them back to earth. It came from Doug Larsen of NEA.

            "Have there been more than one radar sighting simultaneously?" he asked. "That is, blips from several stations all concentrating on the same area?"

            "You mean in the past?" said Samford.

            "Yes, sir."

            "Yes. That is not an unusual thing to happen to this sequence at all. Phenomenon has passed from one radar to another and with a fair degree of certainty that it was the same phenomenon.. . Now, when we talk about down to the split second, I don't know . . ."

            "Enough to give you a fix so that you can be sure it is right in a certain place?"

            "That is most rare," said the general.

            "Has there been any?" persisted Larsen.

            "Most rare. I don't recall that we have had one that gives us that kind of an effect." 

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            Larsen and many of the others looked baffled, for this very point had been emphasized by the Control Center men. But before Larsen could go on, another man cut in with a safer question on ionized clouds. A minute later a redheaded correspondent down in front tried to pick up where Larsen was stopped.

            "General, have you talked to your Air Intelligence officer who was over at National Airport when they were sighting all these 'bandits' on the CAA screen?"

            "Yes, sir, I have."

            "Have you talked with the Andrews Field people who apparently saw the same thing?"

            "I haven't talked to them myself, but others have."

            "Well, could you give us an account of what they did see and what explanation you might attach to it?"

            This was getting closer, but Samford showed only a good-natured patience.

            "Well, I could discuss possibilities. The radar screen has been picking up things for many years that—well, birds, a flock of ducks. I know there's been one instance in which a flock of ducks was picked up and was intercepted and flown through as being an unidentified phenomenon."

            "Where was that, General?" asked the redheaded man.

            "I don't recall where it was. I think it might have been in Japan."

            In the next five minutes the reporter's question somehow was lost in the shuffle. Then Gunnar Back brought it to light again.

            "General Samford, I understand there were radar experts who saw these sightings Saturday night or early Sunday morning. What was their interpretation of what they saw on the scope?"

            "They said they saw good returns."

            "Which would indicate that these were solid objects similar to aircraft?"

            "No, not necessarily. We get good returns from birds." 

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            "Well, you wouldn't get as large a blip from a bird as—"

            "No, unless it was close."

            "Did they report that these could have been birds?"

            "No," said Samford. (In fact they had flatly denied it, as I learned later.)

            At this point an Associated Press man broke in with a question on temperature inversions. Samford passed it on to Captain James.

            "What sort of ground targets give these reflections?" the AP man asked.

            "It depends on the amount of the temperature inversion and the size and shape of the ground objects," Captain James told him. I could see he was uneasy; this was getting close to one of the key questions.

            "Would this reflection account for the simultaneous radar sightings and visual sightings which appear to coincide on the basis of conversations between the radar operator and the observer outside?"

            "There is some possibility of that," James said cau­tiously.

            "Why would these temperature inversions change location so rapidly or travel?"

            "Well, actually," said James, "it can be the appearance or disappearance of different ground targets, giving the appearance of something moving when, actually, the different objects are standing still."

            "Would these pseudo-blips cause any difficulties in combat?"

            "Not to people that understand what's going on." James hesitated. "They do cause difficulty."

            Shortly after this, another newsman came even closer to the danger point.

            "Captain, was there a temperature inversion in this area last Saturday night?"

            It jarred James; I could see that.

            "There was," he said briefly. 

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            "And the Saturday night proceeding?"

            "I'm not sure—"

            "Did any two sets in this area get a fix on these so-called saucers around here?"

            "The information we have isn't good enough to determine that," evaded James.

            The reporter looked incredulous. "You don't know whether Andrews Field and Washington National Airport actually got a triangulation on anything?"

            "You see," said James, "the records made and kept aren't accurate enough to tie that in that close."

            "What is the possibility of these being other than phenomena?"

            This was too hot a potato for Captain James. General Samford quickly caught it.

            "I'd like to relieve Captain James for just a minute," he said.

            Confirming the query to guided missiles, Samford ruled them out in a long discussion that reduced the saucers to "something” with unlimited power and no mass.

            "You know what no mass means," he added. "There's nothing there."

            For the next ten minutes the questions led into safer fields. By this time I had changed my mind about questioning General Samford. It was obvious this was a deliberate debunking, a carefully worked-out plan to combat hysteria. There might be more reason for hiding the facts than I knew. I decided to wait until after the conference and ask my questions privately.

            After several vain attempts the red-headed man down front finally got back to his original question.

            "You had two experts over there last Saturday night. . . What was their opinion?"

            He had put the query to Captain James, but again General Samford interrupted.

            "May I try to make another answer and ask for support or negation on the quality of the radar operator? I personally 

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don't feel that is necessarily associated with quality of radar operators, because radar operators of great quality are going to be confused by the things which now appear and may appear in a radar ... I think that a description of a GCA landing has some bearing on that in which to get associated with the GCA you have to make a certain number of queries and do a certain number of things and then you become identified through the fact that you obey..."

            This went on for a minute or so, during which the red­headed man began to look a trifle groggy. Then Samford finished.

            "Would you address yourself to what I've just said?" he inquired.

            "Yes," said the redhead. "What do the experts think? That was the question."

            "The experts?" said General Samford.

            "The ones that saw it last Saturday night. What did they report to you?"

            "They said they made good returns."

            The reporter, apparently a bit dizzy from the merry-go-round, gave up and sat down. But another correspondent jumped up.

            "Did they draw any conclusion as to what they were, whether they were clouds?"

            "They made good returns," said General Samford, "and they think they ought to be followed up."

            "But now you come to the general belief that it was either heat inversions or some other phenomena without substance."

            "The phrase 'without substance' bothers me a little," said Samford.

            "Well, could you—" "Say what we think?"

            About 50 of the press, in one voice, shouted: "Yes!"

            General Samford smiled.

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            "I think that the highest probability is that these are phenomena associated with the intellectual and scientific interests that we are on the road to learn more about, but that there is nothing in them that is associated with materials or vehicles or missiles that are directed against the United States."

            "The question whether these are hostile or not makes very little difference," said one reporter. "Are you excluding from consideration a missile, a vehicle, or any other material object that might be flying through the air other than sound or light or some other intangible? Somebody from this planet or some other planet violating our air space?"

            This was the first direct mention of the space visitors answer. Instead of replying directly, the general brought in outside opinions.

"The astronomers are our best advisers, of course, in this business of visitors from elsewhere.          The astronomers photograph the sky continuously perhaps with the most adequate photography in existence, and the complete absence of things which would have to be in their appearance for many days and months to come from somewhere else—it doesn't cause them to have any enthusiasm whatsoever in thinking about this other side of it."

            But this oblique answer did not tell the full story. Perhaps General Samford did not know it, but several astronomers had reported strange objects moving in outer space. On one occasion a distant, unidentified object was observed for two nights by astronomers at the Naval Observatory in Washington. Though they later decided it was probably a freak asteroid, one astronomer told a Washington science editor, before this decision, that a space ship could not be absolutely ruled out. In several other cases astronomers had seen mysterious objects moving across the face of the moon. And I had also heard reports, from two sources I believe reliable, that Palomar and other large observatories had sighted and photographed un­known, 

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controlled devices maneuvering near the earth. According to my informants, these sightings had been kept secret at the request of the Air Force. Even if this particular report was wrong, the others, I knew, were correct.

            One reporter, not satisfied with Samford's answer, tried to pin him down.

            "General, let's make it clear now you are excluding—if you'll affirm that—you are excluding vehicles, missiles, and other tangible objects flying through space, including the subhuman bodies from other planets."

            "In my mind, yes," said the general.

            The man on my right leaned over to me.

            "Why 'subhuman?' They'd have to be superhuman to be that far ahead of us. And I noticed Samford didn't make that an official answer."

            A few moments later one of the press brought Samford back to the subject of simultaneous radar tracking. It was a touchy point. If the general admitted the triangulation, by absolutely simultaneous radar bearings, it would wreck the Menzel answer, as several scientists had already told ATIC. But this time he had a determined opponent.

            "General, you said there'd never been a simultaneous radar fix on one of these things."

            "I don't think I wanted to say that," replied Samford.

            "You didn't mean to say it?"

            "I meant to say that when you talk about simultaneously, somebody will say, 'Was it on 1203 hours 24 ½  seconds?' and I don't know."

            "Well," said the reporter, "I'd like to point out this fact. The officer in charge of the radar station at Andrews Field told me that on the morning of July 20, which was a week from last Saturday, he picked up an object three miles north of Riverdale. He was in intercom communication with CAA and they exchanged information. The CAA also had a blip three miles north of Riverdale and on both radars the same blip remained for 30 seconds and simultaneously disappeared from both sets—" 

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            "Well, their definition of simultaneous, yes," said Samford. "But some people won't be satisfied that that is simultaneously."

            "It is pretty damned simultaneous for all purposes," the reporter said firmly.

            But the general refused to be trapped.

            "Well, I'm talking about the split-second people . . . they'll say your observations are delayed by half a second, therefore you can't say it was simultaneous."

            Outmaneuvered, the reporter turned to Captain James.

            "Does your inversion theory explain away that situation?"

            "It possibly could, yes," James said warily.

            "It possibly could, but could it?"

            "We don't have the details."

            "Is there any reason why it couldn't?" the reporter de­manded.

            James squirmed, looked at Samford, apparently in the hope of being taken off the hook.

            "General," the reporter said tardy, "can we get this clarified?"

            For the first time Samford ducked the issue.

            "I'm trying to let this gentleman ask a question—" he looked down at the front row. "Excuse me."

            For the next 15 minutes Samford and his advisers had an easier time. One reporter, quizzing Ruppelt, tried unsuccessfully to make him admit a concentration of sightings at atomic energy plants. Mr. Griffing and Colonel Bower, discussing the refraction-grid cameras, Schmidt telescopes, and plans for more scientific investigations, managed to avoid any pitfalls. So did General Ramey, when he explained a few of the interception details. Then one reporter, who'd tried for ten minutes to get the floor, tossed in a hot question.

            "General, suppose some super intelligent creature had come up with a solution to the theoretical problem of levitation. 

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Would that not be mass-less in our observations, either by radar or by sight—no gravity?"

            "Well, I don't know whether I can give any answer to that," said General Samford. "We believe most of this can be understood gradually by the human mind."

            The reporter, balked, sat down. But later he tried another angle.

            "General, did you notice in all of your, say, 20 per cent of the unexplainable reports, a consistency as to color, size, or speed—estimated speed?"

            "None whatsoever," said Samford.

            Like a chorus in Pinafore, several correspondents exclaimed in unison:

            "None whatsoever?"

            I almost expected Samford to come out with, "Well, hardly ever." Instead, he said very firmly, "No."

            It would have been folly to admit that such patterns were known; it would immediately have nullified everything Samford had said. But such groupings did exist; even the Project report in 1949 had listed two distinct types and certain frequency periods. However, General Samford was not Director of Intelligence at that time, and he may not have known of this analysis.

            By now the conference had run well over an hour. Some of the reporters were anxious to close it and get their stories filed. But one man made a last stubborn try to crack the simultaneous sighting angle.

            "General, how do you explain this case? . . . The Senior Controller said whenever one of the unidentified blips appeared anywhere near Pierman's plane he would call Pierman and say, 'You have traffic at two o'clock about three miles,' and Pierman would look and say, 'I see the light.' This was done not once but three times. And then this past Saturday night Bames vectored at least a half a dozen airline pilots in to these things . . ."

            "I can't explain that," said Samford. 

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            The reporter looked amazed; he had obviously been expecting another evasion.

            "Well, how do you explain ... is that auto-suggestion or—"

            "I can't explain it at all," admitted the general. But a moment later, after a comment on mesmerism and mind reading, he compared it with spiritualism. "For many years, the field of spiritualism had these same things in which completely competent creditable observers reported incredible things. I don't mean to say this is that sort of thing, but it's an explanation of our inability to explain."

            Near the last, a correspondent asked him if the Air Force was withholding facts. The general replied that only the names of sighting witnesses were withheld.

            "How about your interpretation of what they reported?" the newsman said bluntly.

            Perhaps Samford's guard was down; it had been a trying 80 minutes, and he looked tired.

            "We're trying to say as much as we can on that today and admit the barrier of understanding on all of this is not one that we break."

            Knowing the service phrase "break security," I was sure this was what he meant. Later several service friends of mine agreed. But evidently none of the press took it that way, for no one followed it up.

            As the conference broke up, I heard some of the newsmen's comments.

            "Never heard so much and learned so little," one man said acidly. His companion shrugged.

            "What did you expect? Even if they know the answer, they wouldn't give it out now, with all this hysteria."

            Pushing through the crowd toward General Samford, I heard a press photographer jeering at a reporter.

            "OK, wise guy, I told you there wasn't anything to the saucers."

            "You're nuts," snapped the reporter. "Didn't you notice  

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the way Samford kept sliding around hot questions—and the way he kept taking Captain James off the spot?"

            "I think you're wrong," said another newsman. "I believe it was on the level."

            When the group around Samford thinned out, I asked him the two questions I'd had in mind.

            "How big an inversion, General—how many degrees is necessary to produce the effects at Washington Airport, assuming they're possible at all?"

            He looked at me with no change in expression. I would not want to play poker with the general.

            "Why, I don't know exactly," he said. "But there was an inversion."

            "Do you know how many degrees, on either night?"

            "Excuse me, General," someone broke in sharply. I turned around and saw Dewitt Searles, now a lieutenant colonel, eying me suspiciously.

            "You still on this saucer business?" he said. Without waiting for an answer—I had the feeling he had merely wanted to cut off my questions—he turned back to Samford. "Any time you're ready, sir; the newsreel men are waiting."

            On the way out, I stopped to talk with Captain Ed Ruppelt, a broad-shouldered young officer with a disarming grin. I knew he came from Iowa, like myself. After I introduced myself, he told me he'd read some of my stories.

            "I don't mean the saucer book. I did read that—in self-defense, in case I ever ran into you. But I mean those aviation yams, when you were writing fiction."

            With a start like that, I hated to spring the two questions on him, but I did. Ruppelt looked at me thoughtfully.

            "You were talking with General Samford. What did he say?"

            "He didn't," I said. "Never mind, I can see you're on the spot."

            We talked a little longer, on safer subjects, then I went out to my car and drove to the airport.

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            As the airliner droned north, I thought over the high points of the press conference. I was positive now it had been a cover-up, forced on the Air Intelligence men by the July crisis. Obviously they had acted for the good of the country, and I suddenly realized what an ordeal it must have been.

            But all of this could have been avoided if the Air Force, back in the earlier stages, had taken the American people into its confidence. During a lull in sightings, Intelligence could have made a frank statement, perhaps like this:

            "Evidence shows that the saucers are real, that they are some kind of revolutionary machines. There is no sign that they are dangerous or hostile. We don't know where they come from, but we are certain they do not come from Russia or any other nation on earth. It seems likely they come from another planet and are making a friendly survey of the earth before attempting contact."

            Or, to reduce the impact, the Air Force could merely have said that this was a fair possibility.

            It would have caused some alarm. But gradually Americans would have accepted the facts, even the possibility of a saucer attack—just as we now have accepted the danger of A-bomb attack.

            Such a step would have ended all ridicule. Scientists would have felt less squeamish about aiding Project Sign, and Congress would have granted funds for an all-out investigation. Instead, secrecy had built up the mystery, and with it public fear.

            When I reached New York, I checked in at the Commodore and then waited for the early editions. By this time presses all over the country were beginning to grind out the conference story. Ironically, even as the presses roared, Air Force jet pilots were chasing saucers over two Midwest states. One case, if it had been made public that night would have ruined the inversion answer and wrecked the debunking plan. But I didn't learn this until weeks later. 

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            Just before midnight, I saw the New York early editions. The Times piece, by Austin Stevens, carried a front-page two-column headline: 

Air Force Debunks Saucers As Just Natural Phenomena 

            The Herald Tribune story, by C. B. Allen, followed the same line.

            Next day, I called Washington. Neither the Post nor the Star had questioned the Air Force answers. The Post story-was headlined: 

                        Saucer Blips Over Capital Laid To Heat 

            The Associated Press account was in the same vein. Though the Washington News and some other papers had hedged, it was clear that General Samford and his staff had put it over. And in an item from Harvard, Dr. Menzel assured the country that the saucers would disappear when the heat spell was over.

            After all this, I wasn't too happy about my talks on television and radio. Perhaps I shouldn't be trying to knock down the Air Force defense. Though I'd tried to get all the angles in the last three years, there might be a serious one I didn't know—something that justified the Air Force debunking.

            It was too late to cancel the programs. They had been set for a week, beginning with Bill Slater's "Luncheon at Sardi's" and going on up until late at night. But when they were over, I came to a decision.

            When I got back, I would put it up squarely to the Air Force. If they convinced me, I would keep still from then on. 

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