Friends or Foes?
It doesn’t have to be bad news, I told Riordan. I think it may depend on us. Anyway, let's check the things the saucers seem most interested in. Maybe you'll spot some clue I've missed."
"Have you plotted any foreign sightings?" asked Riordan, as I spread out the United States map.
"No, but they show the same pattern."
Riordan bent over the map, which showed the following key locations:
1. Atomic energy plants at Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, Hanford, and smaller plants such as Newport, Indiana. The most frequent observations were over the Los Alamos area.
2. U. S. Air Force Bases as follows: Davis-Monthan and Williams, Arizona; Fairfield-Suisan, Hamilton, George, March, Muroc, and Travis, California; the Air Defense Command Headquarters, Colorado Springs; Patrick, Florida; Hunter, Moody, and Robbins, Georgia; O'Hare, Scott, and Chanute, Illinois; Andrews, Maryland; Westover, Massachusetts; Selfridge, Michigan; Keesler, Mississippi; Offutt, Nebraska; Grenier, New Hampshire; Holloman, Kirtland, and Walker, New Mexico; Mitchel, New York; Pope, North Carolina; Lockbourne and Wright-Patterson,
Ohio; Tinker, Oklahoma; Greenville, South Carolina; Rapid City, South Dakota; Carswell, Ellington, Kelly, Randolph, Laredo, and San Marcos, Texas; Langley Field, Virginia; McChord, Washington.
(In addition to these, as I told Riordan, UFO's have been sighted over or near American bases in Alaska, the Canal Zone, Greenland, Germany, Hawaii, Japan, and Korea.)
3. Naval bases and Navy and Marine Corps air stations at: Alameda, El Toro, and San Diego, California; Jacksonville and Key West, Florida; Atlantic City and Lakehurst, New Jersey; Tongue Point, Oregon; Beaufort, South Carolina; Norfolk and Quantico, Virginia.
4. The high-altitude rocket-testing base at White Sands, New Mexico, where discs circled or paced rockets in flight.
5. Aircraft plants in California, Kansas, Washington, and Texas, where most of the industry is concentrated.
6. Most of the major cities of the United States. The complete list is too long to use, but it includes important cities in almost every state, such as: New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, Chicago, Kansas City, Minneapolis and St. Paul, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Portland, Santa Fe, Des Moines, Baltimore, New Orleans, and Birmingham.
"There are some important sightings which don't show on that map," I told Riordan, "I didn't pinpoint all the spots where saucers have approached or circled planes, because it would look as though they were ground sightings. But there have been hundreds of those reports, as you know."
"Yes, and they've taken some close-range looks at the ground war in Korea, too. About the cities—what do the saucers seem to be checking?"
"There's been only one detailed report—the Washington case. When no airliners were near, the saucers flew over the White House, the Capitol, Andrews Field, the aircraft plant at Riverdale, and the Navy Yard. One or two circled
the airway radio beacons. Of course, they were all over the area, but those seemed to be the main points of interest. Whenever an airliner took off or approached the airport, several saucers would dart over as if for a closer look.
"Most of the cities where they've hovered or circled have defense industries, a big airport, or defense bases, so it's hard to tell just what they were looking at. One thing, they don't seem much interested in ground transportation; though there have been a few cases of saucers following trains. And several times I've seen unconfirmed reports of discs buzzing cars on highways. Some sounded like fakes, but there was one, last July, near Enid, Oklahoma, where the police said the driver was still shaking when he made the report."
"And I suppose his friends made a fool out of him," Riordan said tartly.
"Probably. Well, that's the general setup. Of course, saucers have been seen at dozens of other places, but these are the ones where they've made repeat visits or shown special interest."
Riordan stood up, moved restlessly around the room.
"Maybe I'm a pessimist," he muttered. "But with all those repeats at atomic plants, and checking on our planes and air defenses—well, it looks as if they're getting ready for an attack."
"I know it looks bad. But it's still just circumstantial evidence."
"Many a man's been hung on less," retorted Riordan. He took out his pipe, shoved it back into his pocket. "You say the pattern's about the same in other countries?"
"Except for the atomic energy angle and I couldn't check on that. Probably the saucers have looked over Russia's A-bomb plants, too, but only a few UFO reports have leaked through the Iron Curtain. I do know that two saucers circled the uranium mines in South Africa, some time back. And several were seen over Australia just after Britain exploded its first A bomb there. But there have
been enough reports to show that foreign air defenses and planes have gotten a close going-over. It's worried several countries enough to have them start investigations."
"Yes, you told me," said Riordan.
"But they haven't given out any official case reports that I know of. I've got a few unofficially. In one British case, a rotating disc chased a Meteor jet over Topcliffe Airdrome. And down in the Belgian Congo an air service fighter chased two saucers that were looking over an air base. There've been dozens of foreign airliner reports. Around February of '51, an East African Airways crew and some of the passengers saw a long, rocket-shaped saucer— the pilots estimated the length at about 200 feet. There was another case, farther back, in Australia, where everybody on an airliner signed affidavits describing a rocket-shaped ship they'd seen."
"I guess it's world-wide, then. I thought at first they were concentrating on us."
"I think they are, now. Probably because we've got the lead in A bombs and we look like the strongest nation."
Riordan shook his head moodily.
"That's what bothers me, Don. It looks as though they're measuring us for a knockout. And those green fireballs— if they're not meteors there’s only one possible answer."
"I know. Guided missiles launched from space."
"What else could they be? It would be simple enough to drop them from one of the big ships and guide them in by radar."
"You're not the only one who thinks it's the answer. I know one astrophysicist who says they may be warnings for us to lay off making A bombs—that's because most of them came in over New Mexico."
"That may be true. It's obvious they weren't trying to hit any bases or cities. With radar they wouldn't miss."
"No, they've already proved they can come as close as they want. Not with the green missiles—I'm talking about the red spray cases."
"What happened?" said Riordan.
"It was a queer business. I was surprised that Project Sign let it get out—you'll find it listed as Case 225 in the 1949 summaries. One night, back in '49, a strange reddish light was sighted at Albuquerque, where they'd also been seeing the green fireballs. The saucer came in at about 500 feet, then it suddenly dropped down to 200 feet and exploded in a red spray."
Riordan sat up quickly.
"Did it hurt anybody?"
"No, just scared a few people. It wasn't directly over the city. A pilot told me later it was out near the airport."
"Lucky—it could have set off a panic."
"Here's the part that clinches it. This happened on three other nights—same place, same hour."
"This is the worst thing you've told me," Riordan said slowly. "It's bad—damned bad."
"I don't like it, either. The things were guided there and exploded by remote control—there's no doubt about it. Of course, they could have been flash bombs for UFO cameras higher up, but I can't see it."
"Neither can I," said Riordan. "I happen to know there'd been several daytime sightings at Albuquerque—so why should they bother with night pictures, and four times at that?"
"All right, I admit it was some kind of small flying bomb being used in a test."
"And if they can guide a small one in that accurately," said Riordan, "they could put a big one—probably an A bomb—over any place they wanted to hit. It's plain as the nose on your face—those were ranging tests, for close-up control. The Air Force must know it, too."
"Project Sign didn't give any hint of what they thought. In fact, they left the case out of the actual summaries. But when they released the report it carried a secret analysis by the Air Weather Service—a check to see if balloons could explain any of the flying saucer sightings."
"Don't tell me they tried to call this an exploding balloon —four times in the same place?"
"No, they admitted it couldn't be. But that's how I found out what Case 225 was—and also how I got my lead on the green fireballs."
"You say they omitted those cases, too, from the Project report?"
"That's right. Here, I’ll show you."
I got out the copy I'd typed—the Air Force had released just one report. In the Project analysis section, six case numbers were followed by blanks—Numbers 223, 225, 226, 227, 230, and 231. Why the secret Air Weather Service analysis had been released, when it showed these omitted cases, had never been explained.
"That was right after my first article in True," I told Riordan. "They were in a hurry, trying to offset it, and I guess somebody slipped up."
"Just another snafu," he said. "What's AWS say about the green fireballs?"
"They called them green flares then. Here's Case 223— it says the object was definitely a green flare, seen near Albuquerque. The next one, Case 224, was listed in the Project section, but they don't say a word about any green flare. They just show that something was seen at Las Vegas on December 8, 1948, and then say to compare it with Case 223, which they omitted."
Turning to the Air Weather Service comment, I read it to Riordan:
"Case 224. Description exactly as that in 223, only at an altitude of 13,500 feet. Seen 2 ˝ hours after scheduled balloon release time. Winds at levels from 10,000 to 15,000 feet, WNW, while flare was reported traveling at very high speed in WSW direction. Very accurate observations made by two FBI agents. Definitely not a balloon."
"Very bright deduction," Riordan said sarcastically.
"They had to say that, Jim, even though they knew the
balloon answer was ridiculous. I told you it was AWS's job to say yes or no on balloons."
"OK—it just sounded silly." Riordan picked up the report and silently read the other AWS comments, which were as follows:
"Case 226. Sighted one hour after release time at Albuquerque. Same green flare as in previous five or six cases, and moving into the wind from east to west. No balloon . . . Case 227. Read report of incident. Definitely not a weather balloon. Serves as a guide to interpretation of 223, 224, 225, and 226 . . . Case 230. Exactly as described in 223, etc. Definitely no balloon . . . Case 231. Another glowing green flare just as described above."
Riordan put his finger on the "guide to interpretation" line.
"That's the tip-off. Even then, they must have known those were guided missiles. That's what scared them into setting up Project Twinkle."
"It looks that way. But it still doesn't prove the saucer people are hostile."
"Are you crazy?" demanded Riordan. "It can't add up to anything else. You admitted the red spray things were ranging bombs under remote control."
"Yes, and I'm convinced the green fireballs are guided missiles. But those tests began four years ago. If an attack was all they had in mind, they'd have hit us long before this."
"What else could they possibly—"
The phone cut Riordan off. When I picked it up I heard a familiar voice.
"This is W. B. Smith. I've been here several days, but this is my first chance to call you about a talk. I know its short notice, but this is my last day in Washington."
"All right, I can meet you in about an hour."
"Good. I'm at the Shoreham Room 422-F."
When I explained to Riordan, he nodded.
"Maybe you'll get a new angle. Anyway, I've seen enough for one day. I still say its bad news."
"Well hash it over next time. There may be an out."
Riordan shook his head.
"I think you're kidding yourself—you just don't want to face it."
Driving out to the Shoreham, I thought over Riordan's remark. Maybe I was kidding myself. But there was one answer, which I'd just begun to see, that left a chance for a peaceful contact.
When I saw Smith, he looked the same as when I'd first met him, except for a sprinkling of gray in his black hair. But his manner was more sober as he told me the developments in Canada.
"My government is now taking the saucers seriously," he said. "The Defense Research project is secret, but I can tell you this. They're analyzing reports very carefully, and so is RCAF Intelligence. Several of our best scientists are helping on the technical aspects—they stopped scoffing after the sightings early in 1952."
A little later he told me his own project was also analyzing saucer reports, passing on their conclusions to the Defense Research unit.
"Since your project's under wraps," I said, "you can't tell me what the conclusions are. But what about your private opinion?"
"The same as before," said Smith. "After seeing all the new evidence, I'm more convinced than ever."
A few days before, I had read a news story about a flying saucer which the AVRO Aircraft Company was supposed to be building. According to the report, it was expected to have a top speed of about 1,500 miles an hour. When I asked Smith about it, he nodded.
"Since the newspapers have the story, I can tell you it's true. AVRO is building a new type of plane—revolutionary, in fact. I think it will make present types obsolete, but that's all I can say."
Then he suddenly saw what I had meant.
"It hasn't anything to do with our rotating disc experiments. It doesn't use electromagnetic propulsion." "Those disc tests are under security, I suppose?" Smith smiled apologetically.
"Yes, I'm sorry. We re still working on the disc problem, but that's all I can say. However, it might pay you to study Einstein's Unified Field Theory. You know it unites the forces of electricity, magnetism, and gravity in a single formula."
"It's just Greek to me. But I can see it may be the key to the discs' operation. By the way, are your radio monitors still listening for strange signals?"
"Yes, when they aren't busy with other work. However, they haven't caught any peculiar messages."
Smith opened his brief case and looked at some typed notes.
"Here's an experiment we tried. It explained something that puzzled some of our officials. You know how often a strange light will be reported by only a few people, out of thousands in a city? Naturally, some skeptics thought this proved such reports must be hoaxes. My group had a pet theory about it, so we made a test at Ottawa."
To carry it out, Smith said, they fastened a 500,000 candle-power aircraft flare inside an aluminum cone, suspending the cone under a large weather balloon so that the light would shine on the bottom of the gas bag. The flare itself would be hidden from the ground.
"We waited for a night when the wind would carry the balloon over a certain part of the city—an area where there was a night baseball game and two drive-in theaters. At 5,000 feet a delayed-action fuse set off the flare. All you could see was the glow on the under part of the balloon. The effect was striking, as if a lighted disc had suddenly appeared in the sky. We expected switchboards to be flooded with calls."
Smith paused and looked at me whimsically.
"There wasn't a single call that we know of. It's obvious why so few people see the saucers. Very few ever bother to look at the sky."
"Maybe you Canadians are just less excitable. That Indianapolis sighting last July was at 5,000 feet and it raised the devil."
"But that had rapid movement to catch the eye," said Smith. "Our balloon was moving very slowly."
"Any other tests like that?" I asked him.
"No public ones, but we're considering a 24-hour radar watch."
When I asked where he thought the saucers came from, Smith hesitated.
"I’ll give you this as my personal opinion. There's some evidence that they are operating from Mars. You know about the atomic explosion which Saheki reported, and the blue clouds seen since then?"
"Yes, I've seen the reports."
"There's another factor," said Smith. "The last time Mars approached the earth, I worked out a prediction. There were several sightings at the time I'd calculated. Of course, that's far from proof. But I think Mars will bear close watch. It may be the saucers' originating planet, or it may be serving as an operating base for some race outside our solar system."
"The moon could be another base," I suggested. "Some amateur astronomers have reported seeing lights in two or three craters."
I don't know of any official confirmation," said Smith. "It would be more logical to use the other side of the moon, which we never see. It would be an ideal operating base; they could reach the earth and return in a very short time."
For the next hour we switched to developments in the United States. I told Smith what I had learned, except for the Utah pictures.
"With all that evidence," he said, "your Air Force
Intelligence must be convinced the saucers are interplanetary."
"I think they are. How about RCAF Intelligence—and your other project officials?"
"I'm afraid I can't answer that. Of course, you can draw your own conclusions."
"They must have seen the same kind of evidence," I said.
Smith smiled faintly.
"From what you've told me, I think that's a safe deduction."
"What I was hoping for," I said, "was some opinion on the motive back of all this." I told him about the analysis Riordan and I were making.
"Now that I can answer," said Smith. "We haven't any conclusion as to the motives. It's my personal opinion that the saucer race hasn't made a final decision. I think it's obvious that all the survey data is being analyzed, so that they can decide what to do about us. Possibly it's being done by robot devices—the race must be far advanced in cybernetics. They could feed all the information to a robot predictor, so that it could indicate our probable future actions—whether we'd be dangerous to contact, or a menace when we get out into space. That's pure speculation, of course. The creatures may even be having difficulty in understanding the earth races—they might be super-intelligent in some ways and lacking in others."
"If we only knew what they want," I muttered.
"There's one hopeful thought," said Smith. "They may be so intellectually advanced that they consider war barbaric. In that case, if they decide we're not a menace but are too primitive by their standards, they may simply go off and leave us alone.
"Suppose, for instance, some of our pilots discovered a lost civilization down in the Amazon country. We'd investigate from the air to see how far advanced they were before risking direct contact. If they were a century or two behind us, with sectional wars going on, we'd possibly
leave them alone—unless they had something we wanted badly. But they might be only a decade or two behind us. In that event we'd at least keep a close eye on them in the future; I personally think we'd try to communicate with them, let them know there were other civilized nations, and start trading with them. But if for any reason they were a danger to the rest of the world, we'd have to bring them under control, by reason—or threat of force."
"It's an odd coincidence," I said as I stood up to go, "I used the same 'reversing' idea—but I applied it to Mars, figuring what we'd do if we found it was inhabited."
"It would be the same general situation," agreed Smith. "We're using human logic, however, and these beings may reason in an entirely different manner. They could be highly intelligent and yet coldly materialistic. In that event they would be ruthless in achieving their ends."
"Like the Communists," I said.
"Yes—perhaps raised to the nth degree. But I lean to the other belief, that they may have outlawed war except as a last resort. At least I fervently hope so."
At the door I asked him one last question.
"Do you know of any defense, if they should attack?"
Smith quietly shook his head.
"I think we would be quite helpless."
Going down in the elevator, I looked at my watch. It was almost midnight. We had talked more than three hours. Though I hadn't learned as much as I'd hoped, one thing seemed certain. The Canadian investigators must be convinced, like Smith, that the saucers were interplanetary. Smith had a scientist's religious regard for facts. If the RCAF and the two projects had unearthed any different evidence, he wouldn't hesitate to change his mind.
As I went through the Shoreham lobby I could hear a dance band playing in the Palladium Room. I glanced in at the gay crowd on the floor. What would they feel if they suddenly learned the truth about the saucers?
Maybe they'd take it more quietly than I expected. But
at best it would have a permanent effect on their lives . . .
The next morning about 10 Chop phoned from the Pentagon. He told me he had cleared some January cases I'd asked for.
"What's the latest on the Utah film?" I asked. Knowing the backstage fight against it, I expected to hear bad news. But Al surprised me.
"It's definitely settled. There's going to be a press showing."
"Boy, things will pop now! I'll be right in."
"OK. I may be tied up with Colonel Adams and the others for a while, but I'll leave the reports on my desk. If you're free, we can have lunch together."
When I got to the Pentagon, Al hadn't come back from the conference, so I looked over the ATIC reports.
The first was dated January 6, 1953. In the early-morning hours a saucer with red, green, and white lights had been sighted at Dallas. A CAA tower controller, a Weather Bureau observer, and other witnesses had given Intelligence detailed reports, but none of them had seen the lights rotate. Occasional blue and orange color effects made it hard to classify the saucer as any distinct type. Apparently it had been at a high altitude, where corona effects could be expected. Since ATIC had not finished its analysis, there was no final conclusion.
Clipped to this first Intelligence report was a memo Al had written:
"Note that Air Force pilots in Japan sighted a UFO with red, green, and white rotating fights, on January 9. This was also the date when the V-formation of blue-white UFO's was sighted over Santa Ana. The attached news items may interest you; I'm asking ATIC if they looked into the sightings."
The news stories showed five saucer reports. Two had occurred on January 11. Near Canton, Ohio, two gleaming discs had been sighted by civilian witnesses, and at Kerryville, Texas, an oval-shaped device, glowing orange-red,
had caused a peculiar interference with local television reception. From the 22d to the 24th, saucers had been seen at three places in California. Two brightly glowing UFO's had flown swiftly over Richmond; a formation of silvery discs had been sighted at Pomona, and an oval-shaped metallic-looking saucer was reported by pilots at Palmdale.
On January 29, the ATIC reports showed, there had been two military sightings. One was at Santa Ana, where a Marine Corps jet pilot vainly tried to intercept an orange-red disc. The second, another fruitless chase, took place near Millinocket, Maine, where the crew of an F-94 spotted a silver-gray oval-shaped machine flying at 23,000 feet. After they gave up trying to catch it, the saucer was sighted by two jet pilots from another squadron. By then it was at a higher altitude.
Without reporting it to GCI, the two pilots debated, by radio, whether they should try to intercept the strange machine. Unknown to them, part of their conversation was taken down by a radioman at a nearby Air Force base.
"Do you see that thing above us?" one pilot asked. "It sticks out like a sore thumb."
"If I were going to chase it," said the other pilot, "I'd drop my wing tanks first."
Evidently the two men had decided against an interception. The listening radioman didn't catch all their discussion, but he heard one revealing remark.
"I’ll never admit I saw the thing," one pilot said emphatically.
Plainly, some airmen remembered the "crackpots and bars" blast by Colonel Watson, though the Air Force had tried to offset it. I wondered how many other sightings had gone unreported.
When Al came back from the conference, he seemed a little tense.
"We've been working on the statement," he said. "Some of the PIO's and Intelligence are getting jittery."
"I don't blame them. When s the showing?"
"In about a week."
We went out to the main cafeteria, and after we sat down Al told me about the statement.
"The wording's just about set. It starts something like this— 'The color film you are about to see was taken by Warrant Officer Delbert C. Newhouse, seven miles north of Tremonton, Utah.' Then it tells how he saw 12 to 14 bluish-white objects and knew they weren't aircraft—well, you know the rest."
"Does it give the analysis details?"
"It tells how ATIC and Navy worked out the speeds, using the resolving power of the lens and other tests—also that the maneuvers are too tight for any known aircraft. It follows the original draft pretty closely—the one Dewey Fournet wrote."
"Then it ought to be straight dope, since he's the top UFO investigator here."
"He was." Al hesitated. "He's been put on inactive duty."
"Oh—his time was up, I guess."
"It sounds queer to me. Didn't he start this press-showing deal?"
"Well—he fought for it. Dewey's always wanted to give the public the facts."
"What's been changed from Fournet’s draft?"
"Just a few words here and there," Al said evasively. "It ends up saying the Air Force won't speculate on what the things are, but the analysis shows they weren't conventional objects like aircraft, balloons, or birds. Naturally, with those speeds and maneuvers, they couldn't be."
"What else?" I said.
"Good Lord, Al, the Air Force can't leave it at that. The press and everybody else in the country will be howling for the answer."
“I know that," Al said unhappily. "Well just have to say we don't know."
"You do, and the Reds will probably jump in and claim the saucers are theirs. Then you'll be in a sweet mess."
"They could have done so long ago, if they wanted to."
"But the Air Force kept saying the saucers weren't real. Once you admit they are real, and also say you don't know what they are, you're practically inviting the Soviet to claim they're Russian weapons."
"We could knock it down if the Reds said that. We could have some top engineers and rocket people go on the air and prove they couldn't be Russian. If necessary, we could give them the Gulf of Mexico and Oneida cases and anything else they'd need—"
"Then why not come right out and admit the saucers are interplanetary?"
"That's absolutely out. There's enough opposition even to showing the film."
On the way back to the press branch, I asked Al if he would clear the Utah sighting for me, including the basic facts on the film.
"I'm doing a book, using the ATIC cases," I told him.
"All right, I'll clear it, since you already knew about it."
"Can you give me a memo? I don't have my clearance list* with me—I’ll add the Utah case later, and you can initial it."
"OK, if you want it that way."
On the way home I kept thinking of the Air Force statement. I felt sure it wouldn’t work. The press showing would be dramatically played up in radio bulletins and in papers all over the country. In a matter of hours the Pentagon would be under tremendous pressure. Even if the Soviet didn’t claim the saucers as a secret weapon, using the Norwegian story as proof, public demands for an explanation would be overwhelming. In the end the
* See Clearance List, Appendix II, pp. 255-259.
Air Force would have to admit what the evidence showed —that the saucers must come from outer space.
Regardless of any initial hysteria it was bound to have an impact on many phases of life—religion, business, the struggle with Russia, and even the smaller things in our daily lives.
On the religious effect, I already had some opinions.
"It would strike at the heart of Christianity," one minister had told me. "What would we tell our people—that these other races had their own religions, or were also Christians? If we say the latter, they will ask if Christ was born and crucified on these other planets, so that those races also could know God. The very idea is grotesque-Christ's life here would lose all its divine meaning."
There was no doubt that some fundamentalists would have their faith shaken. But other ministers had told me the effect would not be so serious.
"There are many ways in which other planet races could learn of God," said one of them. "The truth could be brought to them without repeating Christ's sacrifice on earth."
The Catholic Church, too, accepted this possibility. The doctrine had been stated by the Very Reverend Francis J. Connell, Dean of Catholic University's School of Sacred Theology, in Washington.
"It is well," said Father Connell, "for Catholics to know that the principles of their faith are entirely reconcilable with even the most astounding possibilities of life on other planets."
Enlarging on the doctrine, Father Connell had even listed four types of creatures which might exist on other planets, ranging from near-divine to evil geniuses.
The effect on our military program was easier to guess. Under public pressure, Congress was sure to rush huge appropriations for space-travel research, with emphasis on weapons against a possible saucer attack. The struggle between Russia and America would probably be reduced,
if the Politburo were convinced the saucers were a threat. The Soviet might even join us in world-wide defense measures.
The effect on business was less predictable. Realtors might be swamped by people anxious to move from cities or away from defense areas. There might be a wild buying splurge, a boom in night-club and amusement business, with the hysterical slogan of "enjoy life while you can." If scare buying got out of hand, banks might be closed until public fear died down.
On the other hand, the news might cause only a few days' excitement, especially if the government hammered away at the saucers' lack of hostility. Even if the spacemen's motives were admitted as possibly hostile, eventually we would accept that danger as we have accepted the risk of being A-bombed.
But the initial impact, when the news first broke, was still a question. If there was a panic, it would probably come in those first few hours.
When I reached home, I got out some sighting reports which showed witnesses' reactions. One hint came from Mrs. L. G. Planty, a plane-spotter who saw a saucer at Massena, New York.
"It was eerie red in color and frightening," she told reporters. Other Massenans had seen the red disc as it passed above a drive-in theater. Most of them were merely curious; only two of three had been alarmed.
In Indiana a state policeman had described a "dogfight" between several saucers. "It was so weird I hesitate even to talk about it."
Another comment came from W. B. Harris, a fire department radio dispatcher who saw a UFO at Dallas.
"I wish I'd never seen it," said Harris. "It was too fantastic."
E. W. Chambers, the WRC engineer who saw the Washington discs, used almost the same words.
"I'm sorry I ever saw them. I keep worrying about what it means."
There were a few witnesses who had felt no fear. One was Saul Pett, an AP writer who sighted an orange-red saucer over New Jersey.
"I wasn't frightened at all," said Pett, "because the thing looked so peaceful and serene. There wasn't any appearance of menace.”
Letters from readers of my book and articles gave me another cross-section. Most of those who had seen saucers were soberly concerned, though only a few admitted any fear. Some showed the effect of certain scare stories published since '47. One of these stories reported that a nurse and a salesman, driving along a desert road, had been kidnapped by spacemen. Another described how a private plane had been stopped dead, suspended in mid-air, apparently under study by a saucer crew. A third fear-provoking story was built on the theory published by AMPRO Laboratory Associates, which suggested that spies from Saturn were circulating on earth, working for our downfall after a saucer invasion.
It was plain the foundation had been laid for nationwide hysteria. It might have been avoided—but that was water over the dam. The only hope now, it seemed to me, was to trust the American people and quietly tell them the facts.
For over five years they had heard suggestions that the saucers came from space. If they were not prepared now, they never would be.
There would be some hysteria, no matter how and when the news was broken. But after the first alarm, probably most of the country would settle down and soberly face the problem.
Maybe I was wrong—but somehow I felt the American people could take it.