|Dr. James E. McDonald:
2. Case 10. Longview, wash., July 3, 1949
Many of the UFO cases I am citing are drawn intentionally from earlier years, in order to illustrate that the evidence for the existence of a quite real and scientifically significant phenomenon has been with us for a disturbing number of years. I discuss next a case on which I hold copies of material from the official investigative flies, copies that state that this incident was "observed by 150 other people at an Air Show", in addition to the reporting witness, Moulton B. Taylor. I have interviewed Mr. Taylor and have obtained strong recommendations of his reliability from a former superior officer, Adm. D. S. Fahrney, under whom Taylor served in Navy guided missiles work prior to the incident. Taylor is an aeronautical engineer, and was airport manager at Longview, in charge of an air show that was to be held on the afternoon of 7/3/49, the day of the incident in question. A skywriting Stearman was at 10,000 ft. at 10:40 a.m., laying down "Air Show Today", and hence holding the attention of a number of the personnel already at the airport, when the first of three unidentified objects flew over at high altitude. Alerted by one of the persons who first spotted the object coining from the northwest, Taylor got on the public address system and announced to all persons at hand that they should look up to see the odd object. Many had binoculars, and among the over 150 persons present were police officers, city officials and a number of Longview's leading citizens, Taylor emphasized. The object was observed by a number of experienced pilots; and, according to official file summaries, all agreed that the object was shaped much like a discus. It seemed to have metallic luster and oscillated periodically as it crossed the sky from northwest to southeast until lost in mill-smoke. Taylor described the motion as a "sculling or falling-leaf motion rather than a movement through the axis of the disc." Its angular size he estimated as about that of a pinhead at arm's length, or about that of a DC-3 at 30,000 ft., both of which come out to be near 10 minutes of arc (one-third of moon's diameter).
The crowd's attention to events in the sky did not lapse when the first object was lost from view, and, about nine minutes later, someone spotted a second object, whereupon the event was again announced via the public address system. Still a third object was brought to the attention of the crowd in the same manner at 11:25. The second object came out of the north, the third came from almost due west. In the third case, someone thought of timing the oscillation frequency (all three exhibited the same unconventional oscillation, with sun-glint perceptible in certain of the instances of tipping, Taylor mentioned). The oscillation frequency was clocked at 48 per minute. In the official report are height estimates and some disparate comments on color, etc., from several other witnesses, as well as remarks on other sightings in the same area on the same day. Full details cannot be recounted here, for reasons of space limitation. Taylor, in his statement submitted to official investigators, said:
"My experience in radio control of pilotless aircraft and guided missiles for the Navy at NAMU during the war, and over 20 years of aircraft study, does not permit my identification of the objects which were seen. They definitely were not balloons, birds, common aircraft, parachutes, stars, meteors, paper, clouds, or other common objects. They moved in a regular motion either straight or in curved lines. They were all at approximately the same altitude, but moved on different courses as indicated on the sketch. The oscillations were clearly visible and timed on the 3rd sighting.
Discussion. -- The official explanation for this case is "Balloons". I obtained information on upper winds over that part of Washington on that day (700 and 500 mb charts), and the flow aloft between 10,000 and 20,000 ft was from the southwest. The objects, all reported as about the same angular size, came from three distinctly different directions, all within a period of less than an hour. This immediately casts very strong doubt on the balloon hypothesis, as does the flipping motion, the sunglint, and, above all, the fact that no pilot balloon stations were located close upwind of Longview. Furthermore, a typical pilot balloon of about 1 meter diameter could be no higher than about 2500 ft altitude to subtend as large an angle as 10 minutes of arc. Taylor's report (official flies) gave transit times of 2-3 minutes for the unknowns to cross the Longview sky, and, during such a time interval, the normal ascent rate of a pilot balloon would carry it up by 1200-1800 ft. To then fit the angular-size requirements would clearly require that the balloons have been released at some nearby location, which fails to match known pibal-station locations at that time. Furthermore, surface winds were from the west, and winds a short distance above the ground were southwesterly, as indicated by pulp mill smoke-drift described in Taylor's report. This, plus the previously cited upper-flow directions, contradict the balloon hypothesis for all three directions of arrival, particularly those coming from north and northwest. To hypothesize that these were, say, Skyhook balloons coming from three different (unknown) sites, at three different high altitudes, but all so arranged that the apparent balloon diameter came out at about the same 10 minutes of arc each time is scarcely reasonable. In all, I can only regard the balloon explanation as untenable.
Disc-shaped objects have been sighted in dozens of instances, including Arnold's 6/24/47 Mt Rainier sighting. In many, though not all, the odd flipping or fluttering motion has been described by witnesses (Refs. 8, 10). What the dynamical significance of this might be is unclear. We know no more about this in 1968 than we knew in 1947, because such observations have been ignored as nonsense or misidentified balloons.