FOR A MOMENT after Boggs's last answer, I had an impulse to end the interview. I had a feeling I was facing a sphinx--a quiet, courteous sphinx in an Air Force uniform.
I was sure now why Major Jerry Boggs had been chosen for his job, the all-important connecting link with the project at Wright Field. No one would ever catch this man off guard, no matter what secret was given him to conceal. And it was more than the result of Air Force Intelligence training. His manner, his voice carried conviction. He would have convinced anyone who had not carefully analyzed the Godman Field tragedy.
I made one more attempt. "Do the Godman Field witnesses--Colonel Hix and the rest--believe the Venus answer?"
"I haven't asked them," said Boggs, "so I couldn't say."
"What about the Chiles-Whitted case?" I asked. "You were quoted as saying they saw a meteor--a bolide that exploded in a shower of sparks."
"That's right," said Boggs.
"And Gorman was chasing a lighted balloon?"
Again the Intelligence major nodded. I pointed, out that all three of the cases mentioned had been listed as unidentified in the April report.
"They'd had those cases for months," I said. "What new facts did they learn?"
Boggs said calmly, "They just made a final analysis, and those were the answers."
We looked at each other a moment. Major Boggs patiently waited. I began to realize how a lawyer must feel with an imperturbable witness. And Boggs's unfailing courtesy began to make me embarrassed.
"Major," I said, "I hope you'll realize this is not a personal matter. As an Intelligence officer, if you're told to give certain answers--"
He smiled for the first time. "That's all right--but I'm
not hiding a thing. There's just no such thing as a flying saucer, so far as we've found out."
"We've been told," I said, "that Project 'Saucer' isn't closed--that you just changed its code name."
"That's not so," Boggs said emphatically. "The contracts are ended, and all personnel transferred to other duty."
"Then the announcement wasn't caused by True's article?"
Both General Smith and Major Jesse Stay shook their heads quickly. Boggs leaned forward, eyeing me earnestly.
"As a matter of fact, we'd finished the investigation months ago--around the end of August, or early in September. We just hadn't got around to announcing it."
"Last October," I said, "I was told the investigation was still going on. They said there were no new answers to the cases just mentioned."
"The Press Branch hadn't been informed yet," Boggs explained simply.
"It seems very strange to me," I said. "In April, the Air Force called for vigilance by the civilian population. It said the project was young, much of its work still under way."
Jesse Stay interrupted before Boggs could reply.
"Don, the Press Branch will have to take the blame for that. The report wasn't carefully checked. There were several loose statements in it."
This was an incredible statement. I was sure Jesse knew it.
"But the case reports you quoted came from Wright Field. As of April twenty-seventh, 1949, all the major cases were officially unsolved. Then in August or early September, the whole thing's cleaned up, from what Major Boggs says. That's pretty hard to believe."
No one answered that one. Major Boggs was waiting politely for the next question. I picked up my list. The rest of the interview was in straight question-and-answer style:
Q. Do you know about the White Sands sightings in April 1948? The ones Commander R. B. McLaughlin has written up?
A. Yes, we checked the reports. We just don't believe them.
Q. One of the witnesses was Charles B. Moore, the director of the Navy cosmic-ray project at Minneapolis, He's considered a very reputable engineer. Did you know he confirms the first report--the one about the saucer 56 miles up, at a speed of eighteen thousand miles per hour.
A. Yes, I knew about him. We think he was mistaken, like the others.
Q. Mr. Moore says it was absolutely sure it was not hallucination. He says it should be carefully investigated.
A. We did investigate. We just don't believe they saw anything.
Q. Could I see the complete file on that case? Also on Mantell, Gorman, and the Eastern Airlines cases?
A. That's out of my province.
Q. If Project "Saucer" is ended, then all the files should be opened.
A. Well, the summaries have been cleared, and you can see them.
Q. No, I mean the actual files. Is there any reason I shouldn't see them?
A. There'd be a lot of material to search through. Each case has a separate book, and some of them are pretty bulky.
Q. There were 722 cases in all, weren't there?
A. No, nowhere near that.
Q. Then 375 is the total figure--I mean the number of cases Project "Saucer" listed?
A. There were a few more--something over four hundred. I don't know the exact figure.
Q. I've been told that Project "Saucer" had the Air Force put out a special order for pilots to chase flying saucers. Is that right?
A. Yes, that's right.
Q. Did that include National Guard pilots?
A. Yes, it did. When the project first started checking on saucers we were naturally anxious to get hold of one of the things. We told the pilots to do practically anything in reason, even if they had to grab one by the tail.
Q. Were any of those planes armed?
A. Only if they happened to have guns for some other mission, like gunnery practice.
Q. We've heard of one case where fighters chased a saucer to a high altitude. One of them emptied his guns at it.
A. You must mean that New Jersey affair. The plane was armed for another reason.
Q. No, I meant a case reported out at Luke Field. Three fighters took off, if the story sent us is correct. Apparently it made quite a commotion. That was back in 1945.
A. It might have happened. I don't know.
Q. What was this New Jersey case?
A. I'd rather not discuss any more cases without having the books here.
Q. Has Project "Saucer" released its secret pictures?
A. What pictures? There weren't any that amounted to anything. Maybe half a dozen. They didn't show anything, just spots on film or weather balloons at a distance.
Q. In the Kenneth Arnold case, didn't some forest rangers verify his report?
A. Well, there were some people who claimed they saw the same disks. But we found out later they'd heard about it on the radio.
Q. Didn't they draw some sketches that matched Arnold's?
A. I never heard about it.
Q. I'd like to go back to the Mantell case a second. If Venus was so bright--remember Mantell thought it was a huge metallic object--why didn't the pilot who made the search later on--
A. Well, it was Venus, that's positive. But I can't remember all the details without the case books.
Q. One more question, Major. Have any reports been received at Wright Field since Project "Saucer" closed? There was a case after that date, an airliner crew--
At this point, Major Jesse Stay broke in.
"It's all up to the local commanders now. If they want to receive reports of anything unusual, all right. And if they want to investigate them, that's up to each
commander. But no Project 'Saucer' teams will check on reports. That's all ended."
There at the last, it had been a little. like a courtroom scene, and I was glad the interview was over. Major Boggs was unruffled as ever. I apologized for the barrage of questions, and thanked him for being so decent about it.
"It was interesting, getting your viewpoint," he said. He smiled, still the courteous sphinx, and went on out.
After Bogs had left, I talked with General Smith alone. I told him I was not convinced,
"I'd like to see the complete files on these cases I mentioned," I explained. "Also, I'd like to talk with the last commanding officer or senior Intelligence officer attached to Project 'Saucer.'"
"I'm not sure about the senior officer," General Smith answered. "He may have been detached already. But I don't see any reason why you can't see those files. I'll phone Wright Field and call you."
I was about to leave, but he motioned for me to sit down.
"I can understand how you feel about the Mantell report," General Smith said earnestly. "I knew Tommy Mantell very well. And Colonel Hix is a classmate of mine. I knew neither one was the kind to have hallucinations. That case got me, at first."
"You believe Venus is the true answer?" I asked him.
He seemed surprised. "It must be, if Wright Field says so."
When I went back to the Press Branch, I asked Jack Shea for the case-report summaries that Boggs had mentioned, He got them for me--two collections of loose-leaf mimeographed sheets enclosed in black binders. So these were the "secret files"!
Across the hall, in the press room, I opened one book at random. The first thing I saw was this:
"A meteorologist should compute the approximate energy required to evaporate as much cloud as shown in the incident 26 photographs."
Major Boggs had said there were no important pictures.
I tucked the binders under my arm and went out to my car. Perhaps these books hinted at more than Boggs had realized. But that didn't seem likely. As liaison man, he should know all the answers. I was almost positive that he did.
But I was equally sure they weren't the answers he had given me.