NCP-01: Some Early Patterns
The Winter of 1948-49 was much more important to the UFO mystery than most students of UFO history realize. Although there are many gaps to our story, it is hoped that some discussion of certain salient points will aid in the understanding of the more detailed text. Also, this is an opportunity to include some new information and speculation. We will address three questions:
1.) Why did strange aerial lights appear over the
U.S. Southwest in the Winter of
2.) Why was President Truman worried about the Russians
and what did this worry
3.) Why did project SIGN become project GRUDGE?
Question #1: Why the aerial lights?
--The two-week flap of the summer of 47 was described by skeptics as a psychological phenomenon that suddenly appeared and them ran its course.
--On the other hand, persons like Donald Keyhoe, a believer in visitors from space, interpreted the same 47 flap as a nation-wide reconnaissance.
Whichever explanation one chooses, one has to explain the pattern of reports that took place for the next 2½ years. The skeptics would have to be puzzled by the persistence of sporadic reports, and the "believers" would have be wondering what the visitors were going to do. No striking pattern to UFO activity was evident with one exception --some marked activity in the U.S. southwest in late 1948 on through 1949. What was so special about that area?
After World War II President Truman was determined to use the atomic bomb to safeguard the nation and to strengthen the hand of American negotiators during that turbulent period. On December 31,1946, Truman authorized the establishment of the Atomic Energy Commission to manage the nuclear weapons program. Several months later the AEC submitted a status report to the Chief Executive on what the group found after assuming control. Truman was shocked by what the commission discovered. The test explosions of nuclear devices at Bikini the previous summer had been a show for "strategic purposes" and the advanced bombs meant for warfare remained untested and were not even assembled. What's more, the number of bombs was trifling. Nuclear bombs were put together by highly skilled civilians and most had scattered after the war, leaving low paying government service for lucrative positions with private industry. Military personnel were urgently needed to do the bomb assembly, and these people had to be trained and the bombs simplified so it would not take a Ph.D. to do the job. Also, another headache was serious questions about the supply of raw uranium. A drastic increase in the amount of the material was needed to built a realistic bomb stockpile. It seems that the vast majority of raw uranium came from mines in the Elisabethville District of the Belgian Congo in Africa (note: UFO sighting reports in March, 1952) and production was shared with Great Britain on a SO/SO basis by treaty. The arrangement was clearly inadequate in view of American plans so late in 1947 discussions were begun with London with the aim of making the treaty more advantageous. By January 1948 talks resulted in the U.S. getting all of the uranium from the Congo for the next two years, 1948-49, plus an option on uncommitted ore that had already been shipped to Britain. This generous settlement was achieved by allowing British scientists access to a number of nuclear secrets.
Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico, which provided the engineering expertise for the Los Alamos theorists, geared up to build bombs in earnest as the people, designs, and raw material became available. The Joint Chiefs of Staff ordered that 400 bombs be built by 1951. After becoming a true bomb factory, Sandia shipped assembled bombs to Fort Hood, Texas, where there was a secure storage site guarded by the 12th Armored Infantry Battalion under the command of the Fourth Army.
Due to the difficulties previously mentioned, it wasn't until the spring of 1949 that the U.S. manufactured enough bombs to have a "stockpile." It is suggested that the "green fireballs" that appeared over Sandia in late 1948 bear a direct relationship to a sudden ramp-up of American nuclear weapon production. Also, later, in March,1949, when strange "flares" appeared around the "Q" area at Fort Hood, it is suggested that this interest by the UFOs was triggered by the recent arrival of the first shipment of atomic bombs which was stored as America's first nuclear bomb stockpile.
Question #2: Why worry about the Russians?
To explore this question there is some references to the year 1948. Page numbers given refer to pages in the booklet: UFOs A History: 1948.
Trouble with the Russians
In Europe, the critical part of the world, there was political turmoil, economic chaos, and disruptive masses of displaced persons. The battle- tested divisions of the Kremlin were poised in mid Europe and Moscow's propaganda machine was in high gear. The Communists were pushing hard and their agents were everywhere. Hungary, Poland, and Czechoslovakia, yielded to the pressure. Even a country not occupied by the Red Army, Finland, gave in after being "invited" to sign a "pact of friendship," a document that crippled its independence. Winston Churchill, surveying the dismal scene, remarked: "Only the bomb keeps the Russians back."
In January 1948, as previously mentioned, an all-out effort to create an American nuclear bomb stockpile was underway.
In this same month U.S. Air Force Intelligence learned of some sightings of mysterious missiles with "green tails" over Scandinavia, reportedly coming from Russian-occupied Peenemunde on the north German Baltic coast. (Remember this mention of the color green) U.S. Air Force Intelligence felt that the sightings signaled: ".. a revival of another series of alleged flying phenomena." (See pp. 5-6) The reference here was to the Swedish "ghost rockets" of 1946-47 some believed were Russian flying bombs but were never proved to be a Moscow device.
The future of Europe hinged on Germany and the focus of the East-West struggle was Germany's capital, the city of Berlin. The city was under joint occupation of the four war-time allies, France, Britain, Russia, and the United States. The country of Germany was itself divided in zones, each occupied by one of the aforementioned powers. The rub was that Berlin was deep inside the Russian zone and thus at the mercy of Moscow.
The end of March, 1948, the Russian authorities progressively became less tractable in their relationship over the occupation of the German capital. The Communists began to harass traffic and personnel moving through their zone going to great lengths to inspect freight and personal baggage on its way to Berlin. Anyone who complained was turned back.
April 5, 1948, some UFOs exhibiting violent maneuvers appeared very high above Holloman AFB, New Mexico. It was an impressive case and received a lot of attention by Air Force Intelligence. (See pp. 24-27)
Lt. Col. James Beam and civilian advisor Alfred Loedding, made a special visit to the home of saucer photographer William Rhodes in early April because the military had a high opinion of the man's pictures taken back in the Summer of 1947. Questioning the fellow, Beam and Loedding learned something new. Rhodes claimed he saw a "vent" across the trailing edge of the horseshoe-shaped object. This detail helped the theory that the Air Force was dealing with a kind of conventional aircraft. (See p. 24)
This same month highway, rail, and river traffic to Berlin was choked off by Russian authorities because of what they called "technical difficulties." Only the air lanes remained open.
A U.S. military Intelligence agent reported from Moscow on June 10th that the Soviet Central Party Committee was conducting a "secret study of American flying saucer and Swedish ghost rocket reports." (See p. 107)
By June 25th the city of Berlin was effectively blockaded putting the Western powers in a precarious position. Truman had to acknowledge the unpleasant fact that if the U.S. desired to stay in the city it had to show the firm resolve to do so, but that meant a risk of war. The President sent General Clay to Europe to size up the situation and when the General returned on July 22nd and reported to Truman and the National Security Council, he said that if Berlin was abandoned it would be a calamity for American security. After conferring about the matter, the President and the NSC authorized a massive airlift to supply Berlin, but did so over the objections of Air Force General Hoyt Vandenberg who pointed out that if war did break out most of the allied and American air transport, vital to Western defense, would be in an exposed position and would be caught and destroyed.
Two days after the important airlift decision, the Chiles-Whitted "sky monster" UFO encounter rocked Air Force Intelligence. Many at project SIGN were convinced by this case that UFOs were real machines. (See pp.34-45) The main question then was: "whose machine?"
To ease tensions, Truman sent representatives to Moscow on August 2nd to have face-to-face talks with Molotov and Stalin about Berlin.
On August 3rd a Western military agent reported seeing a strange cigar-like UFO flying over Moscow. (See p.48)
On August 5th a top secret "Estimate of the Situation" by project SIGN was circulated in Air Force Intelligence and rejected by Air Force Chief of Staff Hoyt Vandenberg. The "Estimate" suggested that the UFOs were interplanetary visitors. Unknown to researchers of UFO history was the General's opinion of the Russian secret weapon theory. (See p.50)
During the summer of 1948 the Air Force's "Nuclear Energy for the Propulsion of Aircraft Project" (NEAP) came under review. Some 45 engineers, metallurgists, aeronautics specialists, and physicists, gathered at Lexington, Massachusetts, for a secret brainstorming session. Some of the experts wanted to terminate the project as being impractical but the U.S. Air Force pushed for a continuation and won a narrow vote. Months later, a military engineer, who had an interest in the success of the NEAP project, played a role in the UFO story in early 1949 by generating rumors that the Russians were experimenting with atomic-powered craft.
The same day General Vandenberg rejected the "Estimate," August 5th, a routine UFO report from Columbia, South Carolina, carried the following official remark on the military paperwork: "... in the interest of national defense, all publicity surrounding this investigation is to be stringently avoided." (See p.51)
In the transcript of the February 16, 1949, fireball conference (detailed in this booklet) Dr. La Paz, civilian meteor expert, confirms that it was he that helped investigate the Four Corners meteor fall back on October 30, 1947. He states that within hours of the fall he and a government search team arrived in the Four Corners region and tried to locate the object. Exhaustive ground searches were conducted. According to Dr. La Paz this was the first time he: "... detected a bit of interest on the part of the military (in meteor falls)." The team found nothing so they went back time and again. Apparently it was La Paz and this search team that visited the C. Weafer's homestead on the Navajo Reservation in August, 1948 (See p.107 of the booklet: UFOs A History: 1948) and made careful transit measurements. Mr. Weafer claims that the scientists and military men on the team were agreed that the object that fell was not a meteor but a:".. .guided object, probably from the military establishment of a foreign power." (Again see p.107)
The ninth of September the National Security Council, chaired by Truman, was informed that the Berlin airlift was succeeding but that negotiations with the Russians were failing. Tension reached a new high level. Communist- led riots rocked the western sectors of Berlin and the Russian Air Force announced that its jet fighters would be conducting "air exercises" in the same air lanes used by the Berlin airlift transports. In the days following there were a number of close encounters between the transports and the jets. Some people in the U.S. urged Truman to break diplomatic relations with the Russians but the President felt that the only alternative to negotiations was war.
October 1st the impressive George Gorman UFO case took place. Gorman's plane was checked for radiation that might have come from the UFO. Gorman's commanding officer talked too freely to the press and was threatened with court- martial. (See p.52)
That Fall, in another example of being security conscious, the U.S. Air Force's Office of Special Investigations (OSI), consulted the "Harper-Knowles" file, a civilian subversive list, during the investigation of a San Francisco, California, UFO case. (See p. 52)
A second report by General Clay to Truman and the NSC on October 22nd was more hopeful than his first. The Berlin airlift continued to be successful and the German people were closing ranks behind the Western powers. The struggle over the city had become one of endurance.
Two days after General Clay's report, a strange green fireball was visible for 75 minutes in the sky over Phoenix, Arizona. Air Force Intelligence was convinced the phenomenon was not a meteor due to the time factor. (See p.68)
Another secret activity at this time was the use of the big 100-foot Skyhook balloons by the Americans to spy on the Russians. The balloons were suppose to drift over Russia and snap pictures of areas unreachable by any other means. A UFO report in Air Force files dated November 3, 1948, states that a long, plastic-like "intestine" was seen floating high over the U.S. East Coast, clearly a Skyhook not yet fully inflated. A notation on the report said the report was "secret" and suggested that the message be destroyed. One is tempted to ask: "If the Americans were doing secret aerial reconnaissance, why not the Russians?" (See p.69)
And then, on December 5th, a number of strange green fireballs flashed over New Mexico. In the days following more of the fireballs were seen. Air Force OSI agents questioned CAA officials stationed at the Las Vegas, New Mexico , Municipal Airport about the fireballs and then warned the civilians about the:".. confidential classification of the investigation." (See p.76)
In a letter to the local Air Force OSI unit, Dr. La Paz mentioned that requests from the news media concerning the December 5th manifestations were not disseminated due to: "....pressure from other agencies also investigating this occurrence." (See p.79)
On December 12th, Dr. La Paz, in the company of Air Force Intelligence officers and Atomic Energy Commission security agents, personally witnessed the appearance of a green fireball that:".. passed almost centrally across the Los Alamos reservation." (See p. 80)
Due to the quality of the witnesses to the December 12th incident, it seems to be much more than a coincidence that project SIGN got a new mane on December 16th. The new name was "GRUDGE."
In mid December the "visitors from space" theory got a strong vote of no confidence from an Air Force advisor, a RAND Corporation expert, Dr. J.F. Lipp. His view was probably the basis of General Vandenberg's August 5th rejection of the "Estimate of the Situation." A few, more or less "pro- extraterrestrial" opinions by him, were outweighed by the negative ones. One should read his "guesses" carefully and ponder their validity. (See pp. 91-92) On December 10th an official report on UFOS was issued. See below.
In contrast, one should notice the big play given in the Top Secret Air Intelligence Report No. 100-203-79 to the Russian secret weapon theory. In that section titled: "facts and discussion" the Air Force even suggested a possible aircraft, a Model Horten XIII, with a regiment of the planes reportedly based near the city of Irkutsk to guard an atomic plant there. (See pp. 98-99) The most fascinating thing about the document is that it is so ready to accept evidence that points to the material existence of an aerial intruder in the skies of America.
An Atomic Energy Commission security agent observed a green fireball passage on December 20th and when he reported his experience he hastened to add: "It might damage some of our Atomic Installations eventually if it is not a natural thing and man-controlled." (See p.82)
Dr. La Paz wrote Dr. H.E. Landsberg, executive director of the RDB committee on geophysics and geography, on December 28 that in regards to the green fireballs New Mexico authorities:".. .are deeply concerned." (See p.87)
The year ended with a December 29th message being put on file that discussed the reappearance of "ghost rockets" over Scandinavia of which:".. no proof has been obtained to confirm such flights." (See p.89) In other words, these "rockets" which were thought by some to be Russian and akin to aerial objects being seen in the U.S., were proving a disappointing source of evidence for the Russian theory.
A diamond-shaped white light swept over Kirtland AFB, New Mexico, Ordinance area on January 6th. (See p.5)
Four days later FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover received a dispatch from one of his agents stationed at Knoxville, Tennessee, which detailed the claims of an Army engineer only identified as a "Mr. E" who asserted that the Air Force regarded the aerial objects that were reported over Oak Ridge atomic facility in 1947 as man-made missiles and not natural phenomena. The Army engineer suggested that the objects were "atomic energy missiles" of possible Russian manufacture. (See pp.6-10)
After January 30th a big effort to investigate the meteors was contemplated and we learn:"... local commanders were perturbed by implications of the phenomena." (See p.15)
The next day the FBI issued a document. entitled: "Protection of Vital Installations" and stated in the paper that the Army and the Air Force considered flying discs and "balls of fire" top secret subject matter and it suggested that the Swedish ghost rockets might have been of Russian origin. The paper also told about the Chiles-Whitted report terming the object seen by the pilot a "windowed aircraft of an unconventional type." Furthermore, the green fireballs were mentioned and described as "unexplained phenomena." (See pp.16-17)
Apparently to head off this surge of interest, on February 11th the change from SIGN to GRUDGE became official. One of the first bit of business by GRUDGE was to advised the FBI that the Air Force felt that UFOs "ultimately would be determined to have a natural explanation." (See p.21)
In spite of GRUDGE, a conference on the green fireballs was convened at Los Alamos on February 16th. No Air Force Intelligence people were present.
With Dr. La Paz as the principle speaker, there was considerable discussion about meteors and how the green fireballs were a different type of phenomenon. There was talk about light intensity, velocity, kinetic energy, color, trajectory, shock waves, composition, periodicities, etc. (This conference laid the groundwork for project TWINKLE) (See pp. 23-53)
March 1, 1949 the Russians indicated they were sincere about ending the Berlin problem and it looked like the crisis would he over in the near future.
In contrast to the good news in Europe, a very ominous development took place in the U.S. Truman now had his nuclear bomb stockpile, in storage at Fort Hood, Texas, but the "Q" area was being visited by some mysterious aerial "flares." These strange lights seemed to be smaller cousins of the fireballs zooming over New Mexico. (See pp. 56-59, 66-67,82)
Reports of "flares" around the "Q" area at Fort Hood peaked between April 27th-28th. (See p.66)
Project GRUDGE was busy all this time, but evidently it wasn't busy checking out the green fireballs and mysterious "flares." A big two-part UFO debunking article written with GRUDGE cooperation appeared in the April 29th and May 7th issues of the Saturday Evening Post. The prime message was that UFOs were not Russian or visitors from the stars and that a wave of UFO hysteria could hit the U.S. at the same time as an international crisis overloading the Air Force's Intelligence channels.
On May 12th the Russians finally ended the Berlin blockade. Truman hailed the event as a victory for the Western powers.
On May 18th the Air Force issued Air Force Regulation 205-6 prohibiting the: "....disclosure of the nature, sources, or existence of investigative information to unauthorized persons." (See p.75)
Reuters news service reported more strange flying bodies over Scandinavia, this time eastern Finland near the border with Russia. (See p.75)
May 21st a UFO is seen and detected on radar over the Hanford, Washington, atomic works (apparently now operating at capacity to refine raw uranium) (See p.76)
The army unit guarding the "Q" area at Fort Hood requested scientific help, equipment, to investigate the "flares" on June 15th. (See p.82)
On June 22nd a strange UFO sailed over the center of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, atomic works (which was, one assumes, also now operating at capacity to refine raw uranium) (See p.84)
Question #3: Why did SIGN become GRUDGE?
If the reader has studied this writer's UFO history booklet covering the year 1948, he would have noted that a "big change" was taking place within Wright Field's UFO investigation during the winter of 1948-49. It is suggested by this writer that the change had to do with the High Command's concern about the security of America's ramp-up production of nuclear bombs. The "seeming inquisitiveness" of the green fireballs about Sandia, and the phenomena's seeming ability to detect the increase in bomb manufacturing, was seen as a potential threat, the first such indication that there was something unexplained in the heavens that might pose a real danger.
Those in New Mexico responsible for the security of the atomic labs: the FBI, the Army, and Atomic Energy Security agents, were of course very worried about the sky lights and took steps to understand them, but it is quite possible no one in those organizations knew the significance of the timing of the "sky spies"' appearance. Top secret documents available to President Truman that had figures relating to the quantity of atomic bombs, had the numbers deleted. These numbers were converted into code, put on another piece of paper, and kept in a separate room.
The first indication of a change in Project SIGN was a notification that the project's name would be changed from SIGN to "GRUDGE." This occurred on December 16, 1948. Speculation about GRUDGE has centered on its "debunking" but another reason for the existence of GRUDGE is the fact that it came into being just weeks after the green fireballs began to zoom over New Mexico. The series of December 5th sightings was particularly impressive. A Fourth Army source gives us an interesting clue to the origin and the reason for GRUDGE when he mentioned that GRUDGE replaced SlGN because GRUDGE was to cover both UFOs and the fireballs. To make this plain, evidently, the Air Force informed the Army on February 11, 1949, that the Air Force would be the "gathering and reporting agency of the fireball incidents" (This didn't stop the Army, however, from conducting inquiries into the mystery). There was a good reason to do this because up to that time UFOs more or less implied physical machines but the green fireballs were thought by some to be possible "geomagnetic manifestations." As Dr. Lincoln La Paz put it, the fireball phenomenon..... apparently ignores air resistance and gravity and goes blissfully on its way." (See p.42) This explanation seems to have been a favorite with the scientists advising the military although they had trouble dealing with the localized nature of the phenomenon's appearances. In fact, when the FBI began to nose around after being urged to take UFOs seriously by a "Mr. E," the Air Force dissuaded Hoover by an unjustified flat declaration that:"... it was believed that ultimately it would be found that the phenomena in question has a natural explanation." (See p.21)
If the green fireballs caused concern, it can be surmised that the "flares" startled more than a few people. When the flares appeared around the "Q" area at Fort Hood, the bomb stockpile site, it would be asking too much to consider the "flares" a natural phenomenon that happened to appear in a "circular pattern around the storage area." (See p.57) After the Fort Hood manifestations, some people in the High Command must have been convinced of something.
Once GRUDGE had assumed official jurisdiction over both UFOs and the fire balls, the result was a continuous debunking. Why this was is explained by the Air Force. Major General C.P. Cabell, USAF, Director of Intelligence, Office of Deputy Chief of Staff, Operations, wrote a Brig. General Moore of the Directorate of Intelligence, DCS/O, on November 30, 1948, just prior to the establishment of GRUDGE, that the Air Force was having difficulties with the news media and was concerned about reactions by the public to the UFO subject:
"At the present time evaluation of these reports has progressed only to the extent that we must accept that some type of flying objects have been observed although their identification and origin are not yet discernible. We therefore conclude that insufficient data is available to date to warrant any further action except continuing attempts to determine the nature and origin of these objects.
"There is increasing pressure on the part of the U.S. Press to publicize 'flying saucer' incidents. The Director of Intelligence, USAF, has attempted to dissuade the Press from publishing articles of this nature. It has been pointed out to the Press that these articles would necessarily be speculative in nature and would probably result in a flood of reports, making the problem of analysis and evaluation... increasingly difficult....
The policies of GRUDGE would be carried over to a later Air Force UFO investigative effort, Project BLUE BOOK. BLUE BOOK would last until 1969. A secret Air Force document, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, said of BLUE BOOK that the project was a "program" which had a certain "primary purpose." The document stated:
"..... the primary purpose of the program was to allay hysteria by systematically squelching rumors and illusions. Reassuring the public mind that no tangible evidence existed to support fears of an 'invasion from outer space,' or that 'radical technological advances and developments by the enemy' do not exist, was imperative." 2.
As the reader will see in this booklet, the unusual (unprecedented?) move by the Air Force of requesting the Secretary of Defense Forrestal to authorize military Intelligence to "assist the press" was evidently ap proved because it wasn't long before a big two-part article appeared in the Saturday Evening-Post, telling the UFO story in a manner acceptable to official policy.
This "guidance of the press," however, backfired. Ken Purdy, editor of True Magazine, developed a notion something was terribly wrong with the Post article and the Air Force's attitude. Purdy then got investigator-journalist Donald Keyhoe interested. For Keyhoe it marked the beginning of a decades-long struggle between him and the military, and a safe bet is that when the last word is written about the UFO mystery, historians will agree: "Keyhoe was right."
Loren Gross - UFO's: A History 1949: January - June
1. "Highlights of Air Force Intelligence Files."
Focus, The Monthly
2. "Blue Book's Purpose: "To Allay Hysteria By.. .Squelching Rumors And Illusions." Focus, The Monthly Newsletter of the Fair-Witness Project, Inc., Ed.Jimmy Ward ~ William Moore. 4219 West Olive St., Suite 247, Burbank, CA, 91505. Vol.1, No.11, January 31, 1986. pp.1,4.
Loren Loren, born 1938. Mr. Gross became interested in UFOs as a teenager when he was a member of the civilian Ground Observer Corps in the 195Os. After graduation from high school, he served four years in the U.S. Air Force as a radar operator with the Air Defense Command. In 1966 he received his B.A. degree in social science from the University of California at Chico and has since completed postgraduate work in physical science, history, and art. Mr. Gross is the author of many booklets on the early history of the UFO problem: The UFO Wave of 1896 (1974), The Mystery of the Ghost Rockets (1974), and Charles Fort, The Fortean Society, and Unidentified Flying Objects (1976). His most well-known works are the UFOs: A History series of booklets