Date: Tue, 24 Feb 2009 19:14:30 -0500
From: Michael Swords
Subject: The Mayher Film of July 29, 1952; A CommentaryTo: A-Team
Last night I got bored with the book work and decided to look at Mayher. What follows isn't too good, as I have no file on the case [well, now I have] but maybe it has some use as a rough template for context. The crew can repair it in all the ways it needs it. What it is, is my way of looking at things---i.e. in historical context. History is a dangerous business, as by definition we weren't there and therefore don't know what we're talking about, but lets give it a try anyway.
MAYHER IN HISTORY
In early 1952, he was "inducted" [drafted?] into the Marines as a young married [?] photographer. After basic training, he lucked out and was assigned to the air station at Opa-Locka Florida near Miami. UFOs were flapping in southern Florida in the spring and summer [the Desverges case was on July 19th] and Mayher was interested. On July 28th, a low altitude disk was reported over the Tatum Waterway, Miami Beach, by a Mr. Goldstein, and mentioned in the local media. Mayher read both this and the news of the "repeat performance" in Washington D.C. with interest and an intuition. He wondered if, since the the D.C. saucers had returned, might Miami also get a return? He and his wife went to visit the Goldsteins and finding them friendly [and apparently up for a little adventure] decided to hang out with them that evening [Ralph with camera at hand], in hopes of another viewing. Several other neighbors of the Goldsteins were present as well.
At about 9:30 PM they got what they'd hoped for. Others saw the "disk" first and it took Mayher thirty seconds to snap out of it enough to remember that he was supposed to be filming. He took 50 feet of film. After the passover, the excited neighbors began calling the media, but Mayher called the base instead. An officer came out and interviewed him [and one suspects the others as well] and Mayher gave him the undeveloped roll of film, which went back to the base with no one knowing what, if anything, was on it. The next day, Mayher was debriefed by three officers, all Marine Corps, and dismissed. An hour later, he was called back in and told that they were all going to go to the local TV station, WTVJ, where they had facilities to develop the footage. This was done and the film shown several times. [In the process, 10 feet of the film was lost---underprocessed apparently---but 40 feet remained]. Everyone was impressed, and the film was taken by the Marines to send to the Pentagon. Mayher was given 5 [6?] frames to keep, but was asked not to publicly exploit them until he was released from service. Mayher's film seemed to show a glowing disk with short "points" or whatevers projecting fore and aft along an axis of the object. [people are of differing opinions about what they see as regards this element]. While at the TV station, a reporter there showed a picture of an object allegedly taken in Puerto Rico which Mayher thought was identical. It has been said that this photo was presented by the Marine officers, but that is apparently not true [though it makes for a better story]. Mayher's case was swamped by other UFO events [ex. Samford's press con, and several cases that gripped Ruppelt's attention], and sunk beneath everyone's radarscope. ---as an aside on Ruppelt, he did not feel confident enough about it to even mention it in his book, or even his pre-writing prep cards, even though he did have the 1954 PIC article in his files.
On August 1st, the base phoned the Pentagon to report the incident; shortly thereafter they sent some hardcopy. The film was then sent in. Base Commanding Officer Ennis said that the film was sent to the "Air Force": if according to procedure, that should have meant Dewey Fournet. Something then happened that is not, I think, known: "someone" evaluated it. In 1956, Blue Book chief Gregory [although disagreeing] said that his search indicated that the case was marked "unknown"---which surely says that it was looked at. By whom? Along the way, ATIC claimed to have never received the film. That could be a lie; that could be an error; or that could be the truth. How it could be true is not hard to imagine. Here's Dewey with the film can, and here's PIC [the real PIC] "next door" and, hmmmm, Dewey's working with them right now on Trementon and Great Falls. Plus, this is a Marines case and they, the close cousin of the Navy, might add another small incentive [i.e. the Navy's poor trust of the Air Force's handling of UFO's at the time] to have the film looked over at PIC [given it's Navy lineage]. The ONI/USN are pursuing their own UFO look-in at the moment due to the botched handling of SECNAV Kimball's case, and his and Admiral Radford's orders for them to do so. Almost certainly their officer Lt. Commander Frank L. Thomas would have been told of ,and shown , this film. And with Fred Durant practically living in the Air Force's UFO offices at that time, the CIA might have been in the know as well. So, who would have ended up with the actual film? I'd like to get a peek into Art Lundahl's secret file drawer and just maybe.... So it's possible that when ATIC said that it never received the film, it spoke the truth. It's possible that when the Air Force said that maybe ONI had it it spoke the truth. The AF and ATIC speaking the truth: a novel concept.
Well, onward. Mayher was not long for the Marines, and on his way out decides to write an article, featuring of course his film. He wants to know what the evaluation was. He writes ATIC in October 1953. Meanwhile he has lent his remaining frames to physicists at the University of Miami to do what they can. He'll have two analyses to count on.
When Mayher's request arrives at ATIC things are in greater disarray than usual. General Garland is ill [ultimately deathly so], Ruppelt is packing up in prep for the do-nothing Charles Hardin taking over, AFR200-2 has just cast its meaner say-nothing attitude over everything, [to say nothing of the powerful reverberations of the Robertson Panel], and Wright-Pat is about to ban all reporters from the base so that everything has to go through PIO in the Pentagon. Unsurprisingly, Mayher gets no prompt reply. ATIC may have looked for the film, didn't find it and went with the new system: they dumped the problem on the Pentagon. Capt. Harry B. Smith, a faded name observing the Robertson Panel as Dewey Fournet's brand new replacement, would have gotten the job.He couldn't find the film [nor apparently any analysis either---though that's not likely, he'd have followed policy to not report on evaluations which weren't "explained" to the public on that issue] and replied to Mayher, finally in April 1954 that they didn't have the film and maybe ONI had it. The letter was authored, according to policy, by the current PIO officer in charge of these UFO matters, Lt. Robert White, a friend of Ruppelt's who helped him with materials for his book, surreptitiously. Mayher soldiered on apparently not pursuing this with the Navy, and published his article in the "other" PIC in June of 1954. Now out of the service and working at Cleveland TV station WNBK, he achieved a bit of local popularity due to the article, and people wanted to hear his story.
A year later [June 1955], the notorious president of the Detroit Flying Saucer Club, Henry Maday, arranged to bring the even more notorious Dan Fry to Cleveland as part of a saucer shindig for a tin-pot organization named Flying Saucer News Service, run by Thomas Comella. The event attracted 250 saucer fans. According to Comella [not often your most reliable reporter], Mayher, who served as a warm-up speaker to Fry, was far more impressive to the fans than the great lunatic from New Mexico. This had to encourage Mayher, and he began thinking of a TV show. Comella meanwhile devoted most of his next newsletter to Mayher's case and this was read by Len Stringfield and ultimately published in Saucer Post 3-O-Blue , introducing the case to the larger UFO community. Mayher, meanwhile, as a professional TV man now, is trying to push forward on the idea of a program, and therefore, in August 1956, tries again to get the intelligence community to acknowledge his film, and demands an evaluation. The ATIC that this demand encounters is practically hysterical. This is in the middle of the Second Coming of Harold Watson and the beginning of the Blue Book reign of George Gregory [in my mind the worst of all the BB chiefs]. Blue Book had just come off a few years of "relative" calm and successful information control, but was now up to their armpits in tumult. The main cause of this was Don Keyhoe's meddling with Congress [other factors such as Leon Davidson's meddling on the Robertson Panel, and a rash of military people ignoring policy and talking about cases to civilians were playing large roles too]. This was growing into a "public relations" crisis and was described in exactly those words by Gregory, right in a document relating to Mayher's request [Sept.1956]. Gregory, Arcier, and the ATIC crowd decided that despite an earlier case evaluation of "unknown" they needed a better answer. Gregory seemed to be leaning to the "unreliable" category, due to Mayher claiming that he had a "hunch" [psychic weirdo ?] that he'd see a saucer.
What went on behind the mirror then is unknown [at least by me] but we do know something about what was causing the general Air Force hysteria. Keyhoe was causing so much potential for public embarrassment, and, worse, Congressional interest that Gregory, Arcier, Joseph Boland, James Byrne, and Lawrence Tacker were meeting regularly to try to put out fires and head Keyhoe off at the pass. The latter involved rapidly noting cases or other UFO-related matters and creating responses to thwart Keyhoe's effective use of them especially as regards congressmen. They met also with CIA operatives particularly around the "Davidson/Robertson" problem. In the Davidson affair the AF agreed to let Tacker handle it and let the CIA stay in the shadows. Perhaps the CIA returned the favor shortly later. In November of 1957, the sharply condensed wave was full-blown and Mayher judging that "his" object was not unlike the great Levelland "whatnik", released a frame of his film to the UPS and the story made the national press. The Panic Boys were not unobservant. CIA agents showed up to quiz Mayher the next day. He was told that the Air Force had lost the original [probably true, but I bet the Navy, or Lundahl, hadn't] and that they needed to see the remaining frames again. Mayher amazingly gave them the frames and even more amazingly the CIA brought them back to him on time in two weeks. During these exchanges he was told three other things: 1) the visit was ordered by "higher authority" [which could mean anything; everybody in the Pentagon was "higher" than the "no need to know" agents in the field]; 2) he wasn't going to get any evaluation; and 3) he was not to mention that the CIA had anything to do with this.
CHAPTER 6 [of this riveting episode ]:
What the ____ was this all about? Lets allow ourselves a little guesswork. The Air Force sees the UFO information management program as possibly coming down around their ears. This also means that the CIA's Robertson recommendations are about to become void, and we're all going to have to take our chances with whatever wildcards and chaos that unleashes. Both the AF and the CIA would not like that. Plus, perhaps a small point, perhaps not, but Robertson was just back from duty in Europe, and was new chairman of the Defense Science Board, and had recently [mid-September] asked for an update on how it was going. Byrne and Arcier had done the road work, and the great man was said to be pleased. He indicated that Panel declassification, with certain restrictions, was ok by him, and noted that AF authorities were in close communications with Pete Scoville, who had replaced Marshall Chadwell as director of CIA/OSI. With all this its likely that "higher authority" was just the Panic Boys worrying about how Keyhoe might use Mayher to punch them in the stomach next. They had all sorts of reasons to be concerned, as "private briefings" for congressmen and staff had already been forced to take place [ one, at least, in early November, had included not only ATIC, but Ed Ruppelt himself---Ruppelt's book made an impression on some congressmen]. In at least one way, the Panic Boys were correct to watch Mayher, and to give him no support: he joined NICAP as a photographic consultant in January 1958, while the boys were still wondering what to do about him.
Keyhoe chose not to use Mayher for the evidential value of the case, but rather as stick to bang CIA's head that they had silenced an American citizen. A March 1958 letter to Allen Dulles received, first, a vague side-step ["see the Air Force"], and then two weeks later, a denial that Mayher had been told to shut up about anything. What Keyhoe gained by this approach isn't obvious, except that the case itself didn't get any added boost. Dick Hall noted the case, though not prominently in the important UFO Evidence, but there the thing sat [to my knowledge] until Bill Spaulding and Ground Saucer Watch reopened it with their analysis in mid-1970's. GSW was happy with the case and pronounced it as one of the less than 20 you can count as true in UFOlogy. Their analysis viewed the film as a clean disk, the formerly seen "points" judged [ I assume] as artifacts. Here the story comes to a close until 2008-2009, when a crew of hyperactive knuckleheads under the leadership of Francis Ridge decided to look at it again.-----and there I leave it for your "repairs", folks. Because my meanderings do not answer whether the case is "good", they may be entirely beside the point of what we're trying to do, and I apologize if putting you through a useless exercise---but I guess as a historian, that's my karma mike