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Chapter XII

'WHEN I called Redell's office I found he had flown to Dallas and would not be back for two days. By the time he returned, I had written a draft of the Gorman case, with my answer to the balloon explanation. When I saw him, the next morning, I asked him to look it over.

Redell lighted his pipe and then read the draft, nodding to himself now and then.

"I think that's correct analysis," he said when he finished. "That was a very curious case. You know, Project 'Saucer' even had psychiatrists out there. If Gorman had been the only witness, I think they'd have called it a hallucination. As it was, they took a crack at him and the C.A.A. men in their preliminary report."

Though I recalled that there had been a comment, I didn't remember the wording. Redell looked it up and read it aloud:

"'From a psychological aspect, the Gorman incident raised the question, "Is it possible for an object without appreciable shape or known aeronautical configuration to appear to travel at variable speeds and maneuver intelligently?"'"

"Hallucination might sound like a logical answer," I said, "until you check all the testimony. But there are just too many witnesses who confirm Gorman's report. Also, he seems like a pretty level-headed chap."

Redell filled his pipe again. "But you still can't quite accept it?"

"I'm positive they saw the light--but what the devil was it? How could it fly without some kind of airfoil?"

"Maybe it didn't. You remember Gorman described an odd fuzziness around the edge of the light? It's in this Air Force report. That could have been a reflection from the airfoil."

"Yes, but Gorman would have seen any solid--" I stopped, as Redell made a negative gesture.

"It could be solid and still not show up," he said.

"You mean it was transparent? Sure, that would do it!"


"Let's say the airfoil was a rotating plastic disk, absolutely transparent. The blurred, fuzzy look could have been caused by the whirling disk. Neither Gorman nor the C.A.A. men in the tower could possibly see the disk itself."

"Paul, I think you've hit it," I said. "I can see thc rest of it--the thing was under remote control, radio or radar. And from the way it flew rings around Gorman, whoever controlled it must have been able to see the F-51, either with a television 'eye' or by radar,"

"Or by some means we don't understand," said Redell. He went on carefully, "In all these saucer cases, keep this in mind: We may be dealing with some totally unknown principle--something completely beyond our comprehension."

For a moment, I thought he was hunting at some radical discovery by Soviet--captured Nazi scientists. Then I realized what he meant.

"You think they're interplanetary," I murmured.

"Why not?" Redell looked surprised. "Isn't that your idea? I got that impression."

"Yes, but I didn't think you believed it. When you said to check on our space plans, I thought you had some secret missile in mind."

"No, I had another reason. I wanted you to see all the problems involved in space travel. If you accept the interplanetary answer, you have to accept this, too--whoever is looking us over has licked all those problems years ago. Technically, they'd be hundreds of years ahead of us--maybe thousands. It has a lot to do with what they'd be up to here."

When I mentioned the old sighting reports, I found that Redell already knew about them. He was convinced that the earth had been under observation a long time, probably even before the first recorded sightings.

"I know some of those reports aren't authentic," he admitted. "But if you accept even one report of a flying disk or rocket-shaped object before the twentieth century, then you have to accept the basic idea. In the last forty years, you might blame the reports on planes and dirigibles. But there was no propelled aircraft until 1903. {p. 109} Either all those early sightings were wrong, or some kind of fast aerial machine has been flying periodically over the earth for at least two centuries.

I told him I was pretty well convinced, but that True faced a problem. There was some conflicting evidence, and part of it seemed linked with guided missiles. I felt sure we could prove the space-travel answer, but we had to stay clear of discussing any weapons that were still a secret.

"I can't believe that guided missiles are the answer to the Godman Field saucer and the Chiles-Whitted case, or this business at Fargo. But we're got to be absolutely sure before we print anything."

"Well, let's analyze it," said Redell. "Let's see if all the saucers could be explained as something launched from the earth."

He reached for a pad and a pencil.

"First, let's take your rotating disk. That would be a lot simpler to build than the stationary disk with variable jet nozzles. With a disk rotated at high speed you get a tremendous lift, whether it's slotted or cambered, as long as there's enough air to work on."

"The helicopter principle," I said.

Redell nodded. "The most practical propulsion would be with two or more jets out on the rim, to spin your rotating section. But to get up enough speed for the jets to be efficient, you'd have to whirl the disk mechanically before the take-off. Here's one way. You could have a square hole in the center; then the disk launching device would have a square shaft, rotated by an engine or a motor. As the speed built up, the cambered disk would ride up the shaft and free itself, rising vertically, with the jets taking over the job of whirling the cambered section.

"The lift would be terrific, far more than any normal aircraft. I don't believe any human being could take the G's involved in a maximum power climb; they'd have to use remote control. When it got to the desired altitude, your disk could be flown in any direction by tilting it that way. The forward component from that tremendous


lift would result in a very high speed. The disk could also hover, and descend vertically."

"What about maneuvering?" I asked, thinking of Gorman's experience.

"It could turn faster than any pilot could stand," said Redell. "Of course, a pilot's cockpit could be built into a large disk; but there'd have to be some way of holding down the speed, to avoid too many G's in tight maneuvers."

"Most of the disks don't make any noise," I said. "At least, that's the general report. You'd hear ordinary jets for miles."

"Right, and here's another angle. Ram jets take a lot of fuel. Even with some highly efficient new jet, I can't see the long ranges reported. Some of these saucers have been seen all over the world. No matter which hemisphere they were launched from, they'd need an eight-thousand-mile range, at least, to explain all of the sightings. The only apparent answer would be some new kind of power, probably atomic. We certainly didn't have atomic engines for aircraft in 1947, when the first disks were seen here. And we don't have them now, though we're working on it. Even if we had such an engine, it wouldn't be tiny enough to power the small disks."

"Anyway," I said, "we'd hardly be flying them all over everywhere. The cost would be enormous, and there'd always be a danger of somebody getting the secret if a disk landed."

"Plus the risk of injuring people by radiation. just imagine an atomic-powered disk dropping into a city. The whole idea's ridiculous."

"That seems to rule out the guided-missile answer," I began. But Redell shook his head.

"Disk-shaped missiles are quite feasible. I'm talking about range, speed, and performance. Imagine for a moment that we have disk-type missiles using the latest jet or rocket propulsion--either piloted or remote-controlled. The question is, could such disks fit specific sightings like the one at Godman Field and the case at Fargo?"

Redell paused as if some new thought had struck him.

"Wait a minute, here's an even better test. I happen to


know about this case personally. Marvin Miles--he's an aviation writer in Los Angeles--was down at White Sands Proving Ground some time ago. He talked with a Navy rocket expert who was in charge of naval guided-missile projects. This Navy man--he's a commander in the regular service--told Miles they'd seen four saucers down in that area."

"You're sure he wasn't kidding Miles?" I said. Then I remembered Purdy's tip about a White Sands case.

"I told you I checked on this myself," Redell said, a little annoyed. "After Miles told me about it, I asked an engineer who'd been down there if it was true. He gave me the same story, figures and all. The first saucer was tracked by White Sands observers with a theodolite. Then they worked out its performance with ballistics formulas."

Redell looked at me grimly.

"The thing was about fifty miles up. And it was making over fifteen thousand miles an hour!"

One of the witnesses, said Redell, was a well-known scientist from the General Mills aeronautical research laboratory in Minneapolis, which was working with the Navy. (A few days later, I verified this fact and the basic details of Redell's account. But it was not until early in January 1950 that I finally identified the officer as Commander Robert B. McLaughlin and got his dramatic story.)

"Here are two more items Miles told me," Redell went on. "This Navy expert said the saucer actually looked elliptical, or egg-shaped. And while it was being tracked it suddenly made a steep climb--so steep no human being could have lived through it."

"One thing is certain," I said. "That fifty-mile altitude knocks out the rotating disk. Up in that thin air it wouldn't have any lift."

"Right," said Redell. "And the variable jet type would require an enormous amount of fuel. Regardless, those G's mean it couldn't have had any pilot born on this earth."

According to Marvin Miles, this White Sands saucer had been over a hundred feet long. (Later, Commander


McLaughlin stated that it was 105 feet.) If this were an American device, then it meant that we had already licked many of the problems on which the Earth Satellite Vehicle designers were supposed to be just starting. Their statements, then, would have to be false--part of an elaborate cover-up.

"If we had such an advanced design," said Redell, "and I just don't believe it possible--would we gamble on a remote-control system? No such system is perfect. Suppose it went wrong. At that speed, over fifteen thousand miles an hour, your precious missile or strato ship could be halfway around the globe in about forty-five minutes. That is, if the fuel held out. Before you could regain control, you might lose it in the sea. Or it might come down behind the Iron Curtain. Even if it were I smashed to bits, it would tip off the Soviets. They might claim it was a guided-missile attack. Almost anything could hap pen."

"It could have a time bomb in it," I suggested. "if it got off course or out of control, it would blow itself up."

Redell emphatically shook his head. "I've heard that idea before, but it won't hold up. What if your ship's controls went haywire and the thing blew up over a crowded city? Imagine the panic, even if no actual damage was done. No, sir--nobody in his right mind is going to let a huge ship like that go barging around unpiloted. It would be criminal negligence.

"If the White Sands calculations were correct, then this particular saucer was no earth-made device. Perhaps in coming years, we could produce such a ship, with atomic power to drive it. But not now."

Redell went over several other cases.

"Take the Godman Field saucer. At one time, it was seen at places one hundred and seventy-five miles apart, as you know. Even to have been seen at all from both places, it would. have to have been huge--much larger than two hundred and fifty feet in diameter. The human eye wouldn't resolve an object that size, at such a distance and height."

It was an odd thing; I had, gone over the Mantell case


a dozen times. I knew the object was huge. But I had never tried to figure out the object's exact size.

"How big do you think it was?" I asked quickly. This could be the key I had tried to find.

"I haven't worked it out," said Redell. "But I can give you a rough idea. The human eye can't resolve any object that subtends less than three minutes of arc. For instance, a plane with a hundred-foot wing span would only be a speck twenty miles away, if you saw it at all."

"But this thing was seen clearly eighty-seven miles away--or even more, if it wasn't midway between the two cities. Why, it would have to be a thousand feet in diameter."

"Even larger." Redell was silent a moment. "What was the word Mantell used--'tremendous'?" I tried to visualize the thing, but my mind balked. One thing was certain now. It was utterly impossible that any nation on earth could have built such an enormous airborne machine. just to think of the force required to hold it in the sky was enough to stagger any engineer. We were years away--perhaps centuries--from any such possibility.

As if he had read my thoughts, Redell said soberly, "There's no other possible answer. It was a huge space ship--perhaps the largest ever to come into our atmosphere."

It was clear now why such desperate efforts had been made to explain away the object Mantell had chased.

"What about that Eastern Airlines sighting?" I asked.

"Well, first," said Redell, "it wasn't any remote-control guided missile. I'll say it again; it would be sheer insanity. Suppose that thing had crashed in Macon. At that speed it could have plowed its way for blocks, right through the buildings. It could have killed hundreds of people, burned the heart out of the city.

"If it was a missile, or some hush-hush experimental job, then it was piloted. But they don't test a job like that on any commercial airways. And they don't fool around at five thousand feet where people will see the thing streaking by and call the newspapers.

"To power a hundred-foot wingless ship, especially at those speeds, would take enormous force. Not as much


as a V-two rocket, but tremendous power. The fuel load would be terrific. Certainly, the pilot wouldn't be circling around Georgia and Alabama for an hour, buzzing airliners. I'll stake everything that we couldn't duplicate that space ship's performance for less than fifty million dollars. It would take something brand-new in jets."

Redell paused. He looked at me grimly. "And the way I'd have to soup it up, it would be a damned dangerous ship to fly. No pilot would deliberately fly it that low. He'd stay up where he'd have a chance to bail out."

I told him what I had heard about the blueprints the Air Force was said to have rushed.

"Of course they were worried," said Redell. "And probably they still are. But I don't think they need be; so far, there's been nothing menacing about these space ships."

When I got him back to the Gorman case, Redell drew a sketch on his pad, showing me his idea of the disk light. He estimated the transparent rim as not more than five feet in diameter.

"Possibly smaller," he said. "You recall that Gorman said the light was between six and eight inches in diameter. He also said it seemed to have depth--that was in the Air Force report."

"You think all the mechanism was hidden by the light?"

"Only possible answer," said Redell. "But just try to imagine crowding a motor, or jet controls for rim jets, along with remote controls and a television device, in that small space. Plus your fuel supply. I don't know any engineer who would even attempt it. To carry that much gear, it would take a fair-sized plane. You could make a disk large enough, but the mechanism and fuel section would be two or three feet across, at least. So Gorman's light must have been powered and controlled by some unique means. The same principle applies to all the other light reports I've heard. No shape behind them, high speed, and intelligent maneuvers. That thing was guided from some interplanetary ship, hovering at a high altitude," Redell declared. "But I haven't any idea what source of power it used."


Until then, I had forgotten about Art Green's letter. I told Redell what Art had said about the Geiger counter.

"I knew they went over Gorman's fighter with a Geiger counter," Redell commented. "But they said the reaction was negative. If Green is right, it's interesting. It would mean they have built incredibly small atomic engines. But with a race so many years ahead of us, it shouldn't be surprising. Of course, they may also be using some other kind of power our scientists say is impossible."

I was about to ask him what he meant when his secretary came in.

"Mr. Carson is waiting," she told Redell. "He had a four-o'clock appointment."

As I started to leave, Redell looked at his calendar.

"I hate to break this up; it's a fascinating business What about coming in Friday? I'd like to see the rest of those case reports."

"Fine," I said. "I've got a few more questions, too."

Going out, I made a mental note of the Friday date. Then the figure clicked; it was just three months since I'd started on this assignment.

Three months ago. At that time I'd only been half sure that the saucers were real. If anyone had said I'd soon believe they were space ships, I'd have told him he was crazy.