The Canadian Project
About twice a year since the fall of 1950, Smith had flown to Washington on official business. Each time, before he left, we had discussed the saucers and exchanged sighting reports. In the hope that he might be planning another visit, I wrote him at Ottawa. Then, while waiting for his answer, I went over the information I had on the Canadian investigation.
Two years before this, when I first learned of the Canadian interest in saucers, most Dominion officials and scientists had been openly skeptical. But early in '52, after a series of unusual sightings, their attitude had changed.
Though most of these recent sightings had been classified, a few were released to the public. Two of the published reports came from veteran airmen of the Royal Canadian Air Force.
On the night of January 1, 1952, an orange-red disc appeared over North Bay, where the RCAF has a new jet base. For eight minutes, flying at a high altitude, the machine circled, dived, and zigzagged over the field. From its estimated height in the stratosphere, the saucer was one of the largest ever sighted. Its maneuvers were made at supersonic speeds.
When the report was published, RCAF Intelligence
refused to comment. Then a second saucer was reported, again over North Bay. Approaching from the southwest, it stopped directly above the base. After hovering for a moment, it swiftly reversed direction. Climbing at an angle of 30 degrees, it disappeared at tremendous speed.
Meantime, other disturbing reports had reached the RCAF. Until then, many top officers, taking their cue from the Pentagon debunking, had laughed off the sightings. But after the second North Bay case, a high-level conference was held at Ottawa.
Four days later RCAF Intelligence publicly admitted it was starting a serious investigation. At the same time the Defense Research Board announced a new project, now secret.
"We are carefully studying the information," said Dr. O. M. Solandt, chairman of the Board. "At the moment we are as mystified as anyone else."
Another official statement was given out by Dr. J. C. Mackenzie, chairman of the Atomic Energy Control Board and formerly president of the National Research Council.
"It seemed fantastic that there could be any such thing," said Dr. Mackenzie. "At first the temptation was to say it was all nonsense, a series of optical illusions. But there have been so many reports from responsible observers that they cannot be ignored. It seems hardly possible that all these reports could be due to optical illusions."
Dr. Peter Millman, a famous Dominion astrophysicist, also admitted he was baffled after studying the sighting reports.
"It is no good just laughing at these reports. We can't discover any conventional explanation which would cover the reported maneuvers of these objects."
Just four days after the new project was begun, a formation of orange-red discs was sighted over Toronto, flying high above the city. Then on May 1 a lone saucer, moving at terrific speed, flashed over the Canadian capital. In this sighting at Ottawa, the disc's speed was calculated
as 3,600 m.p.h. by government investigators from "Project Magnet."
Unknown to most of the public, this special project had been started three years before, by geomagnetic engineers and scientists in the Telecommunications Division, Department of Transport. Its originator, the engineer in charge, was Wilbur B. Smith.
Probably no one in Ottawa was better equipped for a saucer investigation than Wilbur Smith. As the official in charge of broadcast monitoring, he could direct his men to listen for any strange messages; as a geomagnetic engineer, with a government laboratory at his disposal, he could carry out research on certain propulsion theories; through the official ionosphere observatories he could keep a radar check on saucers flying at extremely high altitudes.
In addition to this, Smith was an electronics expert, with several inventions to his credit. One was a high-speed radio direction finder used in World War II. Another was a new type of voltameter, and a third was a regenerative noise filter. He was also an expert on electronic analysis of graphic charts.
When I met Smith, in 1950, he was in Washington to represent Canada at an international conference on wavelength allocation. For two weeks, between his committee meetings and at nights, we covered every angle of the saucer problem. A tall, quiet-voiced man with close-cropped black hair, Smith had the cool detachment of a typical scientist. In our first talk he told me of the analyses he and his men had made. Then he gave me his opinion.
"I'm convinced they're real—that they're machines of some kind. We've weighed three possibilities. One, they're interplanetary. Second, they're a United States secret device. Third, they're Russian. The last two don't stand up. From the weight of evidence I believe the saucers come from outer space. And I think their appearance is what suddenly increased your government's interest in space travel and an artificial satellite. Judging from our
own operations, I'm sure your government also is vitally concerned with learning the secret of propulsion."
"What do you think it is?" I asked him.
Smith laid a pad on the table—we were lunching at a downtown hotel. Then he sketched a rocket-shaped craft.
"First, let's consider the parent ship. From the high altitude sightings, I think it must be a type like this. For power it could use nuclear fission, mass conversion of energy, or some other revolutionary source, such as cosmic rays. But our experiments indicate that the true discs, which are probably launched from large parent ships, utilize magnetic fields of force. And it's possible that the parent ships also use this same source of power."
It wasn't the first time the electromagnetic field theory had been suggested. Before Scully used the idea, in his story of the little men, I'd checked it with two or three engineers. But when several well-known scientists ridiculed the theory, I'd lost interest in it.
The first hint of electromagnetic propulsion had come in '47, on the day of Ken Arnold's now famous sighting. About that same hour, an Oregon prospector later reported, several discs appeared over the Cascade Mountains. As they circled overhead, his compass needle went wild.
His claim drew a tart comment from Project Sign analysts.
"It is difficult to take this seriously. It would imply fantastically large magnetic fields."
There had been other hints of discs rotating to utilize magnetic fields. One report came from the Reverend Ross Vermilion, a former B-29 pilot. The minister and other witnesses had described a rotating saucer which hovered a few hundred feet over a Kansas highway. Also, I had found some scientific support in the experiments of Dr. Fernand Roussel, a Canadian physicist now living at Lasqueti Isle, British Columbia. In a privately published treatise called "The Unifying Principle of Physical Phenomena,"
Dr. Roussel explained his theory of universal electromagnetic fields, which he believed space ships could tap in traveling between planets. (This treatise, which is now out of print, has several points in common with Einstein's unified field theory.)
Quoting Doctor Roussel, I mentioned this propulsion theory in my 1950 book on the saucers. But after the storm raised by Scully's electromagnetic explanation, I'd stopped giving it serious thought.
Since then, several scientists have backed the theory. One who publicly advanced the idea was Dr. Franz Zwicky of the California Institute of Technology. In 1951, writing in the Journal of the American Rocket Society, Dr. Zwicky said that it may be possible to use the electricity of the ionosphere. In this upper atmosphere ions are stripped of some outer electrons by the ultraviolet rays of the sun. This ionization frees molecules which carry large electric charges.
"If we can tap this electric force," said Dr. Zwicky, "it may prove better than atomic energy for propulsion."
Recently the Carnegie Institute of Terrestrial Magnetism admitted new discoveries about the ionosphere. Until two years ago this layer, which begins about 50 miles up, was believed to be utterly still. Now, radio-echo (radar) tracking shows there are high-speed "waves" which reach speeds up to 540 miles an hour. Unsuspected downward velocities, as high as 275 m.p.h., also have been discovered. Future ionosphere research may give us the key to tremendously powerful magnetic forces now unknown.
Other reputable groups, including scientists of the British Interplanetary Society, have suggested space-ship propulsion by means of external fields of force. It is only the beginning, but it shows the changing attitude toward this once-derided theory which a more advanced race may long ago have put to practical use.
In 1950, however, Wilbur B. Smith and his little group
were the only government scientists I knew who took the idea seriously.
"Certainly the theory's been ridiculed," Smith said when I mentioned some scientists' reaction. "So were plans for the aeroplane, the helicopter, jets, the A bomb—practically all our modern developments. I'd have doubted it myself before our experiments."
At the start the Canadian project was unofficial, though the research was done in a government laboratory with official approval.
"If you publish any of this," said Smith, "I want you to make that clear. We're government engineers and scientists, but we are working on our own time. We've gone back to the fundamentals of electromagnetism and examined all the old laws. We know now it is possible to create current by a collapse of the earth's magnetic field. Eventually, I think, we can achieve enough current to power a flying disc. And we plan to build such a disc."
"How much of this can I use?" I said.
Smith hesitated. "I'll give you the information, but it will have to be cleared with my government."
After his return to Ottawa, Smith rewrote my original draft and sent it to the Canadian Embassy in Washington. The revised report was cleared for me by Mr. Arnold Wright, Defense Research member of the Canadian Joint Staff, after a check at the Pentagon. The following is a verbatim copy of the most important statements.
"A group of Canadian scientists has been working for some time on certain problems connected with the earth's magnetic field. These investigations appear to point the way to a new technology in magnetics, and if the initial conclusions are correct, they offer a ready-made explanation for many of the striking features which have been reported in connection with the sightings of flying saucers.
"The basic premise is that it is possible to produce a magnetic 'sink' [the name arbitrarily chosen by Smith and his engineers] within the earth's field; that is, a region into
which the magnetic flux will flow at a controlled rate, giving up some of its potential energy in the process. Such a 'sink' would have many interesting properties, such as the following:
"1. Electrical power could be obtained from the collapse of the earth's magnetic field into the 'sink.'
"2. Powerful reaction forces could be developed in a conducting ring surrounding the sink and offset from it, sufficient to support a suitably designed ship and to propel it.
"3. If the rate of flow of magnetic flux is modulated, the resulting magnetic disturbances could be used for communication purposes.
"It is curious to note that most of the descriptions of flying saucers are in accordance with the design which would be necessary to exploit the properties of a magnetic sink. For example, the saucers are described as consisting of a large circular disc, with a small central cabin. In this case, the sink could be located in the upper central part of the cabin. The collapsing field in cutting through the surrounding metallic ring would induce in it an electric current which would react with the magnetic field which induced it, producing a force that would have a substantial vertical component. Support and propulsion of the ship would then be a combination of this resultant force, the airfoil action of the disc, and the interaction between eddy currents induced in the disc by its rotation and the main fields.
"Rotation of the disc may be either deliberate, for the induction of eddy currents, or may be incidentally caused by the electron drag of the very large current circulating around the disc. In any case, there is good observational evidence that the disc appears to rotate.
"Since the lift on the saucer will be proportionate to the product of the earth's magnetic field and the field produced by the current induced in the disc, it follows that when the saucer is accelerating upwards a greater force is required, and hence a greater circulating current.
"If the circulating current is sufficiently large and the cooling of the disc is inadequate, it may become red or even white hot, which is in line with several reported observations. Also, under certain conditions of operation, a very high voltage may be built up between the center and the rim of the disc, which could result in a corona discharge through the surrounding air, if the saucer were at a sufficiently high altitude. Such a discharge would resemble the Northern Lights but would be very much more intense. This also seems to be confirmed by observations.
"Navigation of such a flying saucer," the report went on, "would be a very complex process indeed. In the first place, the earth's magnetic field makes all sorts of angles with the horizontal, depending upon geographical latitude and peculiar local conditions. Thus the direction of the force which results from the interaction of the earth's field and the field of the disc may be in almost any direction.
"Furthermore, the tilt of the saucer to get the reaction force in the wanted direction most probably will result in aerodynamic forces in some other direction. Navigation therefore will resolve into a determination of the field direction, comparison with the direction in which it is desired to move, and analysis of the aerodynamic forces which would result from such a motion—and, finally, a suitable correction in the initial tilt of the saucer and flow of magnetic flux.
"It is doubtful if a human pilot could manage to do all this at the speed which would be necessary to maneuver a saucer at the speeds and through the intricate motions which have been observed. It is therefore highly probable that the saucer control systems are semi- if not fully automatic. There are many reports of saucers hovering in one spot for some time. For a saucer designed to operate as described, this would probably be its easiest maneuver. It would be necessary merely to adjust the flux flow and the tilt until the resultant force exactly balanced the
weight of the saucer. There would be little or no aerodynamic problem in this case.
"There is no indication that the accelerations to which a saucer crew would be subjected would be any different from the accelerations experienced in any other type of aircraft going through the same maneuvers. Those authorities who have been consulted say that even Einstein's Unified Field Theory does not indicate that gravity can be neutralized or the inertia of matter overcome. Where saucers have been observed to execute close turns and other maneuvers which would result in large accelerations, it is most probable that such saucers are remotely controlled and do not contain living matter as we know it."
During our talks Smith had enlarged on several of the major points. One night, while we were dining at the Roger Smith Hotel, I told him I was puzzled by the conflicting reports of the saucers' lights.
"If the reports are right," I said, "they're every color of the rainbow. And pilots say they sometimes appear suddenly, or blink out like a light bulb when it's switched off. It just doesn't make sense to me."
"I think I can clear it up," said Smith. "Most of the effects are caused by the disc's rotation, though sometimes a corona discharge is the cause. In the first place, probably many discs aren't seen at all, especially at night. If they're not heating up from rotation, and there's no corona discharge, you wouldn't see one unless it was caught in a searchlight beam or you saw its metal surface shining in the moonlight."
He stopped as I held out my cigarette case.
"No, thanks, I don't smoke." He waited until I had lit up, then went on. "Now let's assume a rotating ring begins to speed up, so that it overheats from its movement through the magnetic field. At first, out of the darkness, you'd see a pale pink—if the speed-up was not too rapid. Then the color would brighten to red, orange-red, through yellow to the glow of white-hot metal. If you slowly heat any metal you'll see the same changes."
"That's right, I've noticed it," I said.
"Now if the ring's rotation was very swiftly accelerated," Smith continued, "the human eye couldn't catch the rapid changes. It would go from red to white too quickly. The same holds true when the rotation is reduced. If the slowing is gradual, you'll see the various stages as the saucer turns yellow, orange, red, pink, and finally becomes dark. But if the rotation were abruptly slowed or stopped, the cooling effect of the air, especially at high speed, would be very swift. You could get the impression that the light had actually been turned off."
"It sounds logical enough," I agreed. "It explains all but the blue and green combinations."
Smith paused while the waiter put down our dessert orders.
"Those colors come from the corona effect. Under certain atmospheric conditions you'll get the Northern Light colors. At different heights a certain shade would predominate. For instance, at relatively low altitudes, any corona discharge would be very short in length and you'd see more of a blue-white color. Somewhat higher, it would be green, or bluish green. Higher still, you might see all the normal corona colors—red, yellow, blue, and green."
"If the ring were overheating, could you still see a corona discharge?"
Smith nodded, then qualified the answer.
"Ordinarily a bright red or white glow would nullify it. But if the rotation speed was only moderate, you might get a reddish color tinged with blue. Higher up, you'd be more likely to see a red shade, from heating, tinged with green or bluish green. It would most likely be a rather hazy effect instead of precise colors. In the majority of cases, however, you could expect just the red-orange-white range, and the reports bear that out."
"This certainly backs up the rotating disc answer," I told him. "It's the first convincing explanation of all the night sightings."
"It explains the daytime variations, too," said Smith.
"It's fairly clear, from the reports, that the discs are made of some silvery-colored metal. In sunshine they gleam like conventional aircraft. But there are color changes in daytime, when the saucers maneuver or suddenly speed up. Many of them have been described as turning red or getting white-hot—also the reverse. However, in bright sunlight it's harder to detect the changes—and to recognize the disc shape, too."
"Come to think of it," I said, "Project Sign mentioned that in its 1949 analysis. I’ll bring the report next time we get together."
Our next talk was at the Pan American Union, where the wave-length conferences were being held. Smith had an hour to spare, and we found an empty room. I had brought my copy of the final Project Sign report, which contained one section entitled, "Confidential Analysis of Intelligence Reports." Though it had been declassified, not many people knew the analysis details.
Together, Smith and I went over the main points.
"Group 1. The most numerous reports indicate daytime observation of metallic disc like objects, roughly in diameter ten times their thickness. Some suggest the cross-section is asymmetrical and rather like a turtle shell. Reports agree that the objects are capable of high acceleration and velocity. They are often sighted in groups, sometimes in formation. Sometimes they flutter.
"Group 2. Lights observed at night. These are also capable of high speed and acceleration. They are less common in groups. They usually appear to be sharply defined luminous objects.
"Group 3. Various kinds of rockets, in general like the V-2.
"Group 4. Various devices, probably cosmic-ray balloons.
"Group 5. Reports given little credence.
"In general, there are few if any indications of noise or radio interference. Nor are there many indications of any material effects or physical damage attributed to the observed objects."
Smith carefully reread the last sentence.
"Not many indications," he said. "That could be taken to mean they do have a few. I didn't think any disc had come that close."
"What do you mean?" I said.
'There is an area of possible danger." Smith reached for a pencil, sketched a rotating disc, then roughly outlined a city beneath it. "With a disc 100 feet in diameter, for instance, there will be two fairly large fields of magnetic force around it while it's in operation. If it were to fly low over this city—let's say at 500 feet—eddy currents would be induced in power lines and metal surfaces. It could blow fuses, perhaps even burn out wires. The danger zone might even be larger; possibly it would extend for a thousand feet. I believe it's the main reason discs have avoided flying low over inhabited areas."
"How close could a plane come without danger?"
"Well—" Smith stopped, gave me a shrewd glance. "You're thinking about Mantell. Judging from the report, he never got near enough for any such effect. However, if a pilot did fly into a region where a magnetic field was collapsing, it would produce eddy currents in his plane.
"At a moderate distance it would merely throw off his direction finder and compass. If he were fairly close, it could affect his ignition and set up strong vibrations in his plane. It might even cause a fire. But the plane would have to be well inside the danger zone."
"Could the vibrations cause a plane to disintegrate?" I asked.
"Possibly," replied Smith. "But it would have to be extremely close with a 100-foot disc. A larger one, rotating at high speed, would have a greater danger zone, of course."
He looked back at the Project report.
"I see they recommended that the discs' flutter be analyzed. What ever came of that?"
"Nothing that I know of." I glanced at another section,
where Project analysts had discussed the saucers' shape and color, and checked several paragraphs for Smith:
"Color. Observers universally report light-colored objects . . . Seventy per cent said the objects were glittering, shiny, luminescent.
"Shape. Over half were reported as round, disc-shaped, spherical or circular. Very few [observers] saw any distinctive shape . . .
"Individuals who see objects in daylight either look at the reflection of the sun on a shiny surface, or else directly at a light source of high intensity. In the war, camouflage experts placed bright lights on the leading edges of antisubmarine aircraft to conceal them from sub lookouts. So if observers in daytime actually see lights or the reflection of the sun on objects, it would account in large measure for their not identifying them."
"That also holds for the daytime difference in colors," said Smith. "On a sunny day a disc could be bright red from rotation, but seen close to the sun it would appear as just a brilliant object. Also, any corona effect would be much dimmer in daylight. The farther from the sun, the more of the true color you'd see.
"On a cloudy day people have seen the actual color changes. At first a disc which isn't heating up will look silvery—or gray, on a very dark day. Then increased rotation will give it a reddish tint, and on through orange to white. And of course the reverse, as rotation decreases."
"It all adds up," I agreed. "But what about the rocket-shaped types?"
It was getting close to Smith's next conference. He looked at his watch, hesitated.
"Let's cover that later. Call me tonight and we'll set a date."
Before our next meeting I listed a few points that still puzzled me. When we got together for dinner, Smith picked up the discussion exactly where we'd left off.
"You were asking about the rocket-shaped types. I think the large parent ships have that general shape. There may
be a smaller cigar-shaped type operating nearer the earth, but I'm not convinced. A disc seen at various angles will give all the effects reported."
He took out a half-dollar, poised it between his fingertips.
"Assume this is a disc-shaped saucer. Narrow your eyes, so your vision blurs a little and you don't see the sharp outlines. Now I'm holding it flat, edgewise to you—you see it looks like a long, extremely narrow cylinder." He tilted it slowly. "Now it's a narrow ellipse, the typical 'cigar shape.' As I tilt it a bit more, it looks more like a football, then egg-shaped. And finally it becomes perfectly round."
He laid down the coin.
"I believe many, if not all, of the saucers described as egg-shaped, oval, or cigar-shaped have simply been tilted discs, traveling at varying angles because of the local magnetic fields. And that brings up another point—the reportedly sudden disappearances. Take the daytime sightings first. Suppose a disc seen as round or oval abruptly tilts so it's edgewise to the observer. At best, all he could see would be a very narrow cylinder-shape, little more than a line. Except at close range, the human eye couldn't resolve it—the disc would seem to vanish.
"Abrupt maneuvers may also explain some of the night disappearances. Some witnesses describe discs as glowing on top, but dark on the lower side. It may be that there is a stationary section under the rotating disc, and only the moving ring heats up. There may be some other explanation. But if the lower side remains dark, then any maneuver that turned the bottom toward an observer would give the effect of a sudden blackout."
During one of our talks Smith had sketched his idea of a flying saucer, showing a rounded, turret-like central cabin. It was possible, he said, that the turret might retract in flight, to reduce resistance. I got out the sketch and looked it over as Smith finished his blackout explanation.
"With all that heat," I said, "it's hardly possible the things could be piloted—unless, of course, they're creatures
who can withstand extreme heat as well as tie high gs."
"I agree," said Smith. "If they were humanlike beings, they'd have to avoid operations that would cause such heat and high g-forces. The cabin would need to be heavily insulated. They might also have special cooling systems, perhaps a non-conducting gas in hollow compartment walls. But I think most if not all of the disc-type saucers are under remote-control."
We had already covered some of the reconnaissance angles. Smith agreed with me that some of the discs undoubtedly carried television scanners and cameras. Others, he thought, would be equipped with devices like our tape recorders, to pick up broadcasts and code messages for later analysis aboard the mother ship.
Though he admitted it was pure speculation, Smith also had sketched his ideas of how discs could be berthed on the larger craft. Each mother ship could have small cup-shaped niches in its sides, into which the disc turrets would fit, with the rest of the saucers lying flat against the parent ship's side.
If the turrets retracted, it would be even simpler for the discs to attach themselves to the larger craft. They might be held in place magnetically, or by some mechanical lock.
Another angle which Smith had covered was the operating steps. To take off, he said, the revolving section would be rotated until the resultant cutting of magnetic fields caused sufficient upward thrust. Since less resistance would be encountered in edgewise flight, this was obviously the reason for the discs' tilting up at steep angles, during swift climbs.
The actual control was one point which puzzled me, and I asked Smith about it now.
"Even if they're remote-controlled from the mother ship," I said, "it must take some kind of robot to calculate all the forces."
"No doubt of it," Smith answered. "They probably use an automatic device which constantly analyzes the magnetic
fields through which a disc is traveling. This robot would be in the disc itself—even if it were manned. I think it must be linked with the controls, so that it instantly changes the disc position, and the speed of rotation if necessary, to compensate for magnetic field variations. And the same would apply for maneuvers. For turns, climbs, hovering, and other maneuvers, the operator would have a series of push buttons—whether he was aboard the disc or on the parent ship. When he pushed a button for a turn, or to speed up, the robot would do the rest."
Another thing I had wondered about was the oscillation or flitting motion so frequently reported.
"They seem to waver before making a turn or climbing," I said to Smith. "Some pilots say they've seen the discs oscillate even in straight flight."
"That's to be expected," he told me. "Let's say a master-control button was pushed for a turn. There'd probably be a split-second delay while the robot-analyzer checked the resultant forces needed, then it would move the controls. This accounts for oscillation before any sudden change such as a steep climb or a sharp turn.
"In straight flight, oscillation would be caused by the disc's adjustment to changing magnetic fields. In a formation, you'll sometimes see individual saucers wobble in succession as they pass through different fields."
He looked at me quizzically as I glanced at my notes.
"I see you still have some doubts about electromagnetic propulsion."
"No, I think you're right. Some of the points are hard to grasp, that's all."
"When we do get all the answers," Smith said soberly, "it will be a tremendous thing—and we'd better get them before Russia does. Magnetically powered discs would be terrible weapons. Their range would be unlimited, and their speeds would be far beyond anything we've even dared hope for. They'd make perfect guided missiles, and they could easily carry A-bomb warheads—perhaps even the H bomb, when we get it."
"And their being silent would make it even worse," I added. "You'd never hear them until they hit."
"Well, of course, that applies to even slower missiles," said Smith. "The people in London never heard the V-2s before they struck."
"Incidentally," I said, "that was the last question on my list. I don't understand why the saucers have never been heard, even at fairly low altitudes."
"A few people have reported hearing them," answered Smith. "But most sightings, I think, have been at altitudes higher than witnesses thought—so high that you wouldn't hear anything. In two or three cases, when discs passed overhead at a moderately low altitude, people have said they heard a swish. And of course if you were very near a saucer on the ground, or if it was hovering close to the earth, you'd undoubtedly hear a humming sound from the rotation. That is, unless other sounds—like a train passing by—drowned it out."
This was our last meeting before Smith left for Ottawa. It was two months after this when he sent back the revised version of the article I'd written. It had been intended for early publication, but was held up to include details of the Canadian disc experiments. Later in '51, Smith told me they had made laboratory tests with a rotating disc, but by that time Project Magnet had been classified. I decided to wait a while longer, hoping that the details, and pictures of the disc, would be released. But Smith had been unable to clear them, and the article had remained unpublished.
Now, as I read over the material, in December of '52, Smith's earlier explanations seemed almost uncanny in light of the recent sighting reports.
For a careful check I went through my entire file of sightings.
There were several which described the red-green-yellow-blue combination indicating a saucer's corona discharge at high altitudes. The most outstanding case was at
Phoenix, where hundreds of people had seen the so-called "jewel box" saucer.
In sightings at lower altitudes, case after case bore out Smith's explanations. During daytime periods, scores of metallic-looking discs had been seen to change color during maneuvers. One typical report, in 1950, described an encounter near Lewisburg, West Virginia. Two round, silvery devices had approached the city, then had swung into tight, fast circles. As the maneuvers began, both discs turned orange-red. When they straightened out, reducing speed, the orange hue quickly faded and the discs resumed their normal silvery color.
In detailed night reports, too, observers' descriptions backed up Smith's analysis. One carefully reported encounter, which I had personally investigated, was the dramatic incident near South Bend, on the night of April 27, 1950. Because of this check-up, I was able to get the passengers' stories as well as the crew's account.
At 8:25 p.m., a Trans World Airlines DC-3 was droning westward over Goshen, Indiana. In the left-hand seat, handling the controls was Captain Robert Adickes, a stocky ex-Navy pilot with ten years' service in TWA. Over on his right was Robert F. Manning, also a four-stripe captain, who was acting as first officer on this flight to Chicago.
The DC-3, Flight 117, was cruising at 2,000 feet when a strange red light below and behind the airliner suddenly caught Manning's eye. Moving swiftly, it climbed up on the right, overtaking the plane.
Puzzled, Manning watched it close in. This was no wingtip light—the red light was too bright. The DC-3 was cruising at 175 m.p.h., but the mysterious object overtook it rapidly, the light steadily growing in size. It was now an orange-red color, like a round blob of hot metal sweeping through the night sky. Craning his neck, Manning looked down on a spherical shape which glowed brightly on top, its lower half in shadow.
"Look over here," he said to Adickes. "What do you make of this?"
Adickes stared down through the starboard window, then told Manning to crank it open to make sure it was not some freak reflection. The saucer was still visible, now almost at the airliner's level. Over the top, the pilots could see scattered ground lights, cars moving on a highway. Adickes hastily called Air Traffic Control, but ATC had no record of any craft near their ship.
By this time the saucer was parallel with the DC-3. As they watched, it slowed down, keeping pace with the plane. To Adickes it looked like a huge red wheel rolling down a road. He banked toward it, but the disc instantly slid away, keeping the same distance. Again he tried, with the same result.
Calling the hostess, Gloria Hinshaw, Adickes told her to alert the passengers. To make sure he had plenty of witnesses, he went back into the cabin, watching the passengers' reaction. When he returned to the cockpit, he tried once more to bank in for a closer look. When the disc again slid away, he cut in sharply, at full throttle, for a direct chase.
Instantly the glowing disc dived, racing off to the north past South Bend. Adickes estimated its speed at nearly 400 miles an hour. Since it had been pacing the airliner at 175 m.p.h., this meant it had doubled its speed in about three seconds. For a few minutes more the weird light remained visible—a diminishing bright red spot. Then it faded into the darkness.
Before meeting the two pilots, I checked on them with TWA.
"Quiet . . . conservative . . . serious . . . careful," were the reports on both men. Nobody in TWA questioned that Adickes and Manning saw exactly what they described.
Captain Manning, the first one I saw, was an ex-Air Force pilot. He had flown six years for TWA, and his flight time was over 6,000 hours.
When he first saw the saucer, Manning said, it seemed a brighter color than when it flew alongside. Apparently the reduction in power, as it slowed to pace the DC-3,
decreased the heating effect. He also agreed that the device had evaded attempts to get near it.
"It was like flying formation with another plane. The thing seemed to slide away when we turned toward it."
"How large do you think it was?" I asked.
"That's hard to say, because we could only guess at its distance," said Manning. "But it had to be fairly large. When I first saw it, the thing was near the horizon, perhaps ten miles away. Even then it was big enough to stand out."
He quietly spiked the idea that the saucer had been a jet plane's tail pipe.
"I've seen jets at night. If you're directly behind one, you'll see a round red spot. But this was huge in comparison. Beside, I saw it coming up from behind us—a jet's exhaust would be invisible from that angle. You wouldn't see much from the side, either."
Manning wouldn't speculate as to what the machine was.
"All I can say is that it definitely was there. And it was uncanny enough to startle anyone first seeing it."
Captain Adickes agreed with Manning on all the main points.
"Before then, I wasn't convinced by the saucer reports. Now I know they do exist. One thing, it wasn't cherry-red, as some papers said. It was about the color of hot metal."
Beside trying to close in on the saucer, Adickes also had attempted to get above it.
"Each time it veered away, as if it were controlled by repulse radar. And when I went straight after it, the thing was off in a flash. Manning and I estimated its diameter at 50 feet or more. When I tried to cut in toward it, it streaked away at twice our speed, but even then it took several minutes to fade out. So it had to be fairly big— maybe a lot larger than 50 feet."
As it speeded up to escape, Adickes said, he caught an edge-on glimpse of the saucer. It seemed to be about one tenth as thick as its diameter. Though he couldn't be sure
of its distance, while it was pacing the airliner, Adickes believed it was at least half a mile away. It had not been close enough to affect his instruments or radio.
Hostess Gloria Hinshaw had seen the disc from both the cabin and the darkened cockpit.
"It looked like a big red wheel rolling along," she told me. "It was certainly a strange-looking thing. If I hadn't seen it, I don't think I'd have believed the pilots."
Later, by long-distance calls, I interviewed 11 passengers. The first was S. N. Miller, manager of a jewelry company in St. Paul. He had watched the saucer, he said, for several minutes.
"The thing was the color of a neon sign—just a big red disc. I used to laugh at saucer stories—but not any more."
Among other passengers who confirmed the sighting were C. H. Jenkins and D. C. Bourland, engineers with the Boeing Aircraft Company, and E. J. Fitzgerald, vice-president of a metal equipment corporation in Chicago. Later several officials of the International Harvester Company also admitted they had seen the glowing disc as it paced their plane.
Though there were some variations in the passengers' reports, most of them were minor differences—estimates of size, distance, and speed. Their combined testimony left no doubt that some kind of controlled machine, a type unknown to the pilots and the Boeing experts, had been flown near the airliner for a careful observation.
As I read the details again, I checked them against Smith's explanations. The pattern fitted perfectly.
The more recent cases, too, seemed to prove that the discs were magnetically powered. One report, cleared to me by ATIC, described an unusual sighting by four astronomers at Greenville, South Carolina. On the night of May 13, 1952, the astronomers had seen four saucers flying in a diamond-shaped formation. Glowing a reddish yellow, the machines passed silently overhead, wobbling several times before they went out of sight. All four saucers,
the astronomers agreed, had an oval shape, like that of a disc flying on its side.
Several other Intelligence reports, from Goose Bay Air Force Base, gave similar evidence from pilots and ground men. The first was the sighting on June 19, 1952, when a glowing red disc approached the field at night. As already described (in Chapter IV) the machine wobbled a moment, then turned white and climbed out of sight at high speed.
On November 26 an F-94 pilot chased another disc several miles from the Labrador base. As it turned and climbed, the saucer's color changed from bright red to white. On December 15 he saw a second disc and tracked it on his radar. Again, he watched the color change from red to white, when the saucer swiftly maneuvered. The color changes were also seen by a T-33 jet pilot.
In the Pan American-Norfolk case, every point seemed to fit Smith's answer—the brief fading of the orange-red glow, as the discs slowed; the quick flipping on edge before the turn; their brightening glow as they speeded up. But the clincher, to me, was an incident at Camp Drum, on September 22, 1952.
For 30 minutes that night the duty officer and several soldiers watched a round, orange-red object circle above the camp. At least three times they heard what they later described as "the whine of a generator or rotating discs." During its half-hour observation of the camp, the strange machine hovered, accelerated for swift climbs, and descended again. Part of the time it was apparently operating at a very low altitude, for the humming sound was distinctly heard on the ground.
Though it still wasn't absolute proof, it looked as if Smith had been right from the start. If so, we now knew what the saucers were like, and how they were operated.
But where did they come from? What kind of beings controlled them?
And most important of all:
Why were they watching this planet?