THAT MORNING, at True, we made the final decisions on how to handle the story. Using the evidence of the Mantell case, the Chiles-Whitted report, Gorman's mystery-light encounter, and other authentic cases, along with the records of early sightings, we would state our main conclusion: that the flying saucers were interplanetary.
In going over the mass of reports, Purdy and I both realized that a few sightings did not fit the space-observer pattern. Most of these reports came from the southwest states, where guided-missile experiments were going on.
Purdy agreed with Paul Redell that any long-range tests would be made over the sea or unpopulated areas, with every attempt at secrecy.
"They might make short-range tests down there in New Mexico and Arizona-maybe over Texas," he said. "But they'd never risk killing people by shooting the things all over the country."
"They've already set up a three-thousand-mile range for the longer runs," I added. "It runs from Florida into the South Atlantic. And the Navy missiles at Point Mugu are launched out over the Pacific. Any guided missiles coming down over settled areas would certainly be an accident. Besides all that, no missile on earth can explain these major cases."
Purdy was emphatic about speculating on our guided-missile research.
"Suppose you analyzed these minor cases that look like missile tests. You might accidentally give away something important, like their range and speeds. Look what the Russians did with the A-bomb hints Washington let out."
It was finally decided that we would briefly mention the guided missiles, along with the fact that the armed services had flatly denied any link with the saucers.
"After all, interplanetary travel is the main story," said Purdy. "And the Mantell case alone proves we've
been observed from space ships, even without the old records."
The question of the story's impact worried both of us. public acceptance of intelligent life on other planets would affect almost every phase of our existence-business, defense planning, philosophy, even religion. Of course, the immediate effect was more important. Personally, I thought that most Americans could take even an official announcement without too much trouble. But I could be wrong.
"The only yardstick--and that's not much good--is that 'little men' story," said Purdy. "A lot of people have got excited about it, but they seem more interested than scared."
The story of the "little men from Venus" had been circulating for some time. In the usual version, two flying saucers had come down near our southwest border. In the space craft were several oddly dressed men, three feet high. All of them were dead; the cause was usually given as inability to stand our atmosphere. The Air Force was said to have hushed up the story, so that the public could be educated gradually to the truth. Though it had all the earmarks of a well-thought-out hoax, many newspapers had repeated the story. It had even been broadcast as fact on several radio newscasts. But there had been no signs of public alarm.
"It looks as if people have come a long way since that Orson Welles scare," I said to Purdy.
"But there isn't any menace in this story," he objected. "The crews were reported dead, so everybody got the idea that spacemen couldn't live if they landed. What if a space ship should suddenly come down over a big city--say New York--low enough for millions of people to see it?"
"it might cause a stampede," I said,
Purdy snorted. "it would be a miracle if it didn't, unless people had been fully prepared. if we do a straight fact piece, just giving the evidence, it will start the ball rolling. People at least will be thinking about it."
Before I left for Washington, I told Purdy of my last visit to the Pentagon. I had informed Air Force press
relations officials of True's intention to publish the space-travel answer. There had been no attempt to dissuade me. And I had been told once again that there was no security involved; that Project "Saucer" had found nothing threatening the safety of America.
At this time I had also asked if Project "Saucer" files were now available. The Wright Field unit, I was told, still was a classified project, both its files and its photographs secret. This had been the first week in October.
When I asked if there was any other information on published cases, the answer again was negative. The April 27th report, according to Press Branch officials, was still an accurate statement of Air Force opinions and policies. So far as they knew, no other explanations had be n found for the unidentified saucers.
'I in absolutely convinced now," I told Purdy, "that here's an official policy to let the thing leak out. It explains why Forrestal announced our Earth Satellite Vehicle program, years before we could even start to build it. It also would explain those Project 'Saucer' hints in the April report."
"I think we're being used as a trial balloon," Purdy said thoughtfully. "We've let them know what we're doing. If they'd wanted to stop us, the Air Force could easily have done it. All they'd have to do would be call us in, give us the dope off the record, and tell us it was a patriotic duty to keep still. Just the way they did about uranium and atomic experiments during the war."
He still did not have the name of the other magazine supposed to be working on the saucers. But it seemed a reliable tip (it later proved to be true), and from then on we worked under high pressure.
In writing the article, I used only the most authentic recent sightings; all of the cases were in the Air Force reports. When it came to the Mantell case, I stuck to published estimates of the strange object's size; a mysterious ship 250 to 300 feet in diameter was startling enough. At first, I chose Mars to illustrate our space explorations. But Mars had been associated with the Orson Welles stampede. Most discussions of the planet had a menacing note, perhaps because of its warlike name.
In the end, I switched to a planet of Wolf 359. The thought of those eight light-years would have a comforting effect on any nervous readers. The chance of any mass visitation would seem remote, if not impossible. But it would still put across the space-travel story.
As finally revised, the article, written under my byline, stated the following points as the conclusions reached by True:
1. For the past 175 years, the earth has been under systematic close-range examination by living, intelligent observers from another planet.
2. The intensity of this observation, and the frequency of the visits to the earth's atmosphere, have increased markedly during the past two years.
3. The vehicles used for this observation and for interplanetary transport by the explorers have been classed as follows: Type I, a small, nonpilot-carrying disk-shaped craft equipped with some form of television or impulse transmitter; Type II, a very large, metallic, disk-shaped aircraft operating on the helicopter principle; Type III, a dirigible-shaped, wingless aircraft that, in the Earth's atmosphere, operates in conformance with the Prandtl theory of lift.
4. The discernible patterns of observation and exploration shown by the so-called flying disks varies in no important particular from well-developed American plans for the exploration of space, expected to come to fruition within the next fifty years. There is reason to believe, however, that some other race of thinking beings is a matter of two and a quarter centuries ahead of us.
Following these points, I added a brief comment on the possibility of guided missiles, adding that the Air Force had convincingly denied this as an explanation of any sightings. As Purdy had suggested, I carefully omitted ten minor cases that I thought might be linked with guided-missile research. If disclosing the facts about space travel helped to divert attention from any secret tests, so much the better.
"True accepts the official denial of any secret device," I stated, "because the weight of the evidence, especially the world-wide sightings, does not support such a belief."
Most readers, of course, would know that some guided-missile experiments were going on, and that True was fully aware of it. But our main purpose would be achieved.
The fact that the earth had been observed by beings from another planet would be fully presented. Some readers, of course, would reject even the fact that the saucers existed. Others would cling to the idea that they were of earthly origin. But the mass of evidence would make most readers think. At the very least, it would plant one strong suggestion: that we, men and women of the earth, are not the only intelligent species in the universe. When the article was finished, it was tried out on True's staff, then on a picked group that had not known about the investigation. One editor summed up the average opinion:
"It will cause a lot of discussion, but the way it's written, it shouldn't start any panic."
The January issue, in which the story ran, was due on the stands shortly after Christmas. With my family, I had gone to Ottumwa, Iowa, to spend the holidays with my mother and sister. While I was there, the story broke unexpectedly on radio networks.
Frank Edwards, Mutual network newscaster, led off the radio comment. He was followed by Walter Winchell, Lowell Thomas, Morgan Beatty, and most of the other radio commentators. The wire services quickly picked it up; some papers ran front-page stories.
The publicity was far more than I had expected. I phoned a reporter in Washington whose beat includes the Pentagon.
"The Air Force is running around in circles," he told me. "They knew your story was due, but nobody thought it would raise such a fuss. I think they're scared of hysteria. They're getting a barrage of wires and telephone calls."
That night, as I was packing to rush back east, he called with the latest news.
"They're going to deny the whole thing," he said. "But' I heard one Press Branch guy say it might not be enough
--they're trying to figure some way to knock it down fast."
Next day, while changing trains at Chicago, I saw the Air Force statement. The press release was dated December 27, 1949. Without mentioning True, the Air Force flatly denied having any evidence that flying saucers exist. After examining 375 reports, the release said, Project "Saucer" had found that they were caused by:
1. Misinterpretation of various conventional objects.
2. A mild form of mass hysteria or "war nerves."
3. Individuals who fabricate such reports to perpetrate a hoax or to seek publicity.
Evaluation of the reports of unidentified flying objects, said the Air Force, demonstrates that they constitute no direct threat to the national security of the United States.
Then came the clincher: Project "Saucer," said the Air Force, had been discontinued, now that all the reports had been explained.
It was plain that the release had been hastily prepared. It completely contradicted the detailed Project "Saucer" report, issued eight months before, that had called for constant vigilance, after admitting that most important cases were unsolved. Anyone familiar with the situation would see the discrepancy at once.
From Washington I flew to New York, where I found True in a turmoil. Long-distance calls were pouring in. Letters on flying saucers had swamped the mail room. Reporters were hounding Purdy for more information.
A hurried analysis of the first hundred letters showed a trend that later mail confirmed. Less than 5 per cent of the readers ridiculed the article. Between 15 and 20 per cent said they were not convinced; a few of these admitted they could not refute the evidence. About half the readers accepted the possibility; most of these said they saw no reason why other planets should not be inhabited. The remainder, between 25 and 30 per cent, said they were completely convinced.
Even the disbelievers asked for more information. The intelligence level of the average letter was gratifyingly high. Comments came from scientists, engineers, airline and private pilots, college professors, officers of the armed
services, and a wide variety of others--including far more women than True's readership usually includes.
Several confidential tips had come in when I arrived. Most of them were from usually reputable sources. We were given evidence that Project "Saucer" was still in operation; since its true code name was not "Saucer," it could be continued without violating the Air Force press release. This same information was received from a dozen sources within the next two weeks. We were also told that there had been 722 cases, instead of 375.
Meantime, a number of astronomers had come out with statements, pro and con. One of these was Dr. Dean B. McLaughlin, of the University of Michigan.
"No one knows what the saucers are as yet," Dr. McLaughlin said. "They could be anything, and I'm willing to be convinced once the evidence is presented."
Dr. Bart J. Bok of Harvard was on the fence: "After all," he said, "all sort of things float around in space. But I'm not convinced the saucers are anything apart from the earth."
Another Harvard astronomer, Dr. Armin J. Deutsch, took an oblique poke at True and me. "I don't think anyone--and that includes astronomers--knows enough about them to reach any conclusions."
After this came the comment of Dr. Carl F. von Weizacker--that billions of stars may have planets, and many could be inhabited.
Within a few days we had a huge stack of clippings, some supporting True, some deriding us. In the midst of all this, I read scientists' comments on Einstein's new unified-field theory, which had been printed about the time True appeared on the stands. A discussion by Lincoln Barnett, author of The Universe and Dr. Einstein, explained the basic premise--that gravitation and electromagnetic force are inseparable. As I read it, I thought of what Redell had said. If gravitation were a manifestation of electromagnetic force, was it possible that an advanced race had found a way--as unique as splitting the atom--to offset gravity and utilize that force?
It was during these first tense days that we ran down the White Sands story. This also ended another puzzle--
the identity of the magazine that we had feared might scoop us.
The race had been closer than we knew. The editors of a national magazine had learned of Commander McLaughlin and the sightings at White Sands. Two of the staff had carefully investigated the details. Convinced that the report was accurate, they had planned to run the story in an early issue.
Since True had appeared first with the space-travel story, the editors agreed to release the McLaughlin report for use in our March issue. The basic facts were in close agreement with what Redell had told me.
The ellipsoid-shaped saucer had been tracked at a height of 56 miles, its speed 5 miles per second. This was 18,000 miles per hour, even faster than Redell had said. The strange craft, 105 feet in length, had climbed as swiftly as Marvin Miles had described it--an increase in altitude of about 25 miles in 10 seconds.
Commander McLaughlin stated in his article that he was convinced the object was a space ship from another planet, operated by animate, intelligent beings. He also described two small circular objects, about twenty inches in diameter, that streaked up beside a Navy high-altitude missile. After maneuvering around it for a moment, both disks accelerated, passed the fast-moving Navy missile, and disappeared.
It is Commander McLaughlin's opinion that the saucers come from Mars. Pointing out that Mars was in a good position to see our surface on July 16, 1945, he believes that the flash of the first A-bomb, at Alamogordo Base, a point not far from White Sands, was caught by powerful telescopes.
During the first week of January, I appeared on "We, the People," with Lieutenant George Gorman. When I saw Gorman, before rehearsals, he seemed oddly constrained. I had a feeling that he had been warned about talking freely. During rehearsals, he changed his lines in the script. When the writers argued over a point, Gorman told them:
"I can say only what was in my published report--nothing else."
The day before the broadcast, a program official told me they had been told to include the Air Force denial in the script. That afternoon I learned that the Air Force planned to monitor the broadcast.
Meantime, an A.P. story carried a new Air Force announcement. Formerly secret Project "Saucer" files would be opened to newsmen at the Pentagon, giving the answers to all the saucer reports.
Just after my return to Washington, I saw an I.N.S. story that was widely printed. It was an interview with Major Jerry Boggs, a Project "Saucer" Intelligence officer who served as liaison man between Wright Field and the Pentagon. Major Boggs had been asked for specific answers to the Mantell, Chiles-Whitted, and Gorman cases.
The answers he gave amazed me. I picked up the phone and called the Air Force Press Branch. After some delay, I was told that Major Boggs was being briefed for assignment to Germany. An interview would be almost impossible.
"He wasn't too busy to talk with I.N.S.," I said. "All I want is thirty minutes."
Later, Jack Shea, a civilian press official I had known for some time, arranged for the meeting. I was also to talk with General Sory Smith, Deputy Director for Air Information.
Major Jesse Stay, a Press Branch officer, took me to General Smith's office for the interview. Both Jesse and Jack Shea, pleasant, obliging chaps who had helped me in the past, tried earnestly to convince me the saucers didn't exist. Jesse was still trying when Major Boggs came in.
Boggs looked to be in his twenties, younger than I had expected. He was trim, well built, with a quietly alert face. Two rows of ribbons testified to his wartime service. When Jesse Stay introduced me, Boggs gave me a curiously searching look. It could have been merely his usual way of appraising people he met. But all through our talk, I had a strong feeling that he was on his guard.
I had written out some questions, but first I mentioned the I.N.S. story.
"Were you quoted correctly on the Mantell case?" I asked.
"Yes, I was." Major Boggs looked me squarely in the eye. "Captain Mantell was chasing the planet Venus."
It was so incredible that I shook my head. "Major, Venus; was practically invisible that day. We've checked with astronomers. Is that the official Air Force answer?"
"Yes, it is," Boggs said. His eyes never left my face. I glanced across at General Sory Smith, then back at the intelligence major.
"That's a flat contradiction of Project 'Saucer's' report. Last April, after they had checked for fifteen months, they said positively it was not Venus. It was still unidentified."
Boggs said, in a slow, unruffled voice, "They rechecked after that report."
"Why did they recheck, after fifteen months?" I asked him. "'They must have gone over those figures long before that, for errors."
If my question annoyed him, Boggs gave no sign.
There's no other possible answer," he said. "Mantell was chasing Venus."