“The Flying Saucers Are Real”—A Vintage Article by Major Donald E. Keyhoe, TRUE Magazine January 1950

This is the most interesting and the most important true story we have ever published. It is utterly true. We can document every occurrence reported here. It is our sober, considered conviction that the conclusion arrived at in this story is a fact, that …THE FLYING SAUCERS ARE REAL

F9489992-CE61-4E4D-8EC6-6424D454F640Donald E. Keyhoe, who sums up the flying-saucer evidence for TRUE after sharing in the investigation that made this story possible, writes with twenty-five years of experience in observing aeronautical developments. A Naval Academy graduate, Pensacola-trained in aviation, he flew in active service with the Marine Corps, managed the U. S. tour of the historic plane in which Bennett and Byrd made their North Pole flight, was aide to Charles Lindbergh after the famous Paris hop, and was chief of information for the Aeronautics Branch, Department of Commerce. He has lectured and written extensively; of the many notable articles he has done for TRUE none has been so significant and timely as this one.

After eight months of intensive investigation, the following conclusions have been reached by True Magazine:

1. For the past 175 years, the planet 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 by which it is being conducted, have increased markedly during the past two years.

3. The vehicles used for this observation and for interplanetary transport by the explorers have been identified and categorized as follows: Type I, a small, nonpilot-carrying disk-shaped aircraft equipped with some form of television or impulse transmitter; Type II, a very large (up to 250 feet in diameter) metallic, disk-shaped aircraft operating on the helicopter principle; Type III, a dirigible-shaped, wingless aircraft which, in the Earth’s atmosphere, operates in conformance with the Prandtl theory of lift.

4. The discernible pattern 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.

The only other possible explanation is that the “saucers” are extremely high-speed, long-range devices developed here on Earth. Such an advance (which the Air Force has convincingly denied) would require an almost incredible leap in technical progress even for American scientists and designers.

Startling at first glance, True’s conclusions are logical and reasonable in the light of the full facts. They have long since been fully accepted by informed authorities.

After the first flurry of excitement attending the sightings of the so-called disks or saucers in July, 1947, various explanations were put forward: hoax, hallucination, hypnosis, weather balloons, the planets Neptune, Venus, or Mercury, and optical illusions. Some hoaxes and mistakes naturally occurred; such things usually follow highly publicized events. But none of these explanations will stand up in the important, most authentically reported cases. However, most people were satisfied, and the great flying-disk mystery was generally forgotten. An important magazine published two strangely inconclusive and contradictory articles, stated to have been prepared with the co-operation of the Air Force, purporting to dismiss the disks as of no basic significance.

In two fields, however, interest in the strange phenomena rose instead of declining.

The United States Army Air Force investigators operating “Project Saucer” — the official investigating agency charged with solving the mystery — kept on with their work. Today they are receiving and evaluating sighting reports at the rate of twelve a month.

Various scientists, thinking independently, began to search the records of the past. They discovered reports of strange, air-borne, disklike objects in the sky as far back as 1772. They began to ponder the tremendous implications of that discovery.

There was fortunately a good deal of current material with which to work. For a beginning, let’s consider the Mantell case. About 1:15 p. m. on January 7, 1948, a round object, estimated to be at least 250 feet in diameter, was sighted over Madisonville, Kentucky. At 1:30, state police alerted Fort Knox, as the disk appeared to be heading in that direction. Fifteen minutes later, an observer in the Godman Air Base tower, ninety miles from Madisonville, saw the disk over the field. It appeared to be hovering and was clearly seen by most of the officers on the base. At times it gave off a reddish glow. The commanding officer on the base, Colonel Guy F. Hix, ordered radio contact made with a flight of three F-51s passing over Fort Knox, near Godman Field, en route to Louisville. The flight was led by Captain Thomas F. Mantell, Jr., an experienced pilot with a distinguished ETO combat record. Mantell called in shortly and reported contact with the thing.

At 2:45, Mantell radioed Godman that the object was at 12 o’clock high (directly ahead and above him). He said: “I’m closing in now to take a good look. It’s directly ahead of me and moving at about half my speed. The thing looks metallic and it’s tremendous in size.” For twenty-five minutes, Mantell and the two F-51s with him tried vainly to close in. Mantell reported that the thing was climbing and making speed equal to his, which he said was 360 m.p.h. In broken clouds at 18,000 feet, the other two ships lost sight of Mantell and could not find him again. After five minutes, they broke off and landed at Godman. At 3:15, Mantell called in to say that he was not gaining on the object and that if he were no closer when he reached 20,000 feet, he would abandon the chase. This was reasonable because the F-51 was carrying no oxygen.

That was the last heard from Captain Mantell. His body was found near Fort Knox, and the wreckage of his plane was scattered for half a mile around him. Obviously, the ship had disintegrated in mid-air.

Later that day, a similar disk — in all probability, the same one—was sighted over Lockbourne Air Force Base at Columbus, Ohio. “It was traveling faster than 500 m.p.h.,” the report said. “It glowed from white to amber, and it showed an amber exhaust trail five times its own length.”

Inexplicably, the Columbus sighting was omitted from authorized magazine reports of the Mantell case.

Confusing, contradictory explanations followed the Fort Knox affair. Papers carried stories that the mysterious visitor had been a balloon half obscured by clouds. The magazine article prepared with Air Force aid said the object was Venus. Then the Air Force denied this answer.

The magazine had an out. An alternate guess was that Mantell and his pilots had chased a Navy cosmic-ray research balloon. This was widely repeated by readers unfamiliar with balloons. Few thought to check the speeds and distances involved.

Cosmic-ray balloons are not powered; they are set free, to drift with the wind. To fly the ninety miles from Madisonville to Fort Knox in thirty minutes, a balloon would have required a wind of 180 m.p.h. After traveling at this hurricane speed, the balloon would then have had to come to a dead stop, in order to hover over Godman Field for more than an hour. As the F-51s approached, it would have had to speed up again to 180 m.p.h., then to more than 360 to keep ahead of Mantell.

This writer, as a Navy-trained balloon pilot, as well as a Marine Corps airplane pilot, is reasonably familiar with free (drifting) balloons. But it doesn’t take a balloon pilot to see that the recorded performance of the Fort Knox “saucer” is impossible for a balloon.

The three fighter pilots chased the mysterious object for half an hour — Mantell for thirty-five minutes. (I have several times chased balloons with a plane, overtaking them in seconds.) In a straight chase, Mantell would have been closing in at 360; any wind pushing the balloon would also have been a tail wind on his fighter plane, nullifying the balloon’s forward drift.

The only way to have eluded him would have been through lightninglike maneuvers — impossible for even the fastest dirigible, let alone an unpiloted free balloon. By the same token, the thing reported flying at 500 m.p.h. over Lockbourne Air Base could not have been a balloon. Even if there had been several balloons in this general area (and there were not, by official record) they could not have covered the courses reported. In some instances, they would have been flying against the wind, at terrific speed.

The published “balloon” explanation also requires incredibly poor vision on the part of all the observers — the pilots, Air Force observers on the ground, state police, Army MPs, and civilians. Captain Mantell was a wartime pilot, trained to identify a distant enemy plane in a split second. The vision of all three pilots was excellent. In broad daylight, they could not fail to identify a balloon during their thirty-minute pursuit.

But even if that reason is ignored, the object could not possibly have been a balloon. The fast flight from Madisonville, the abrupt stop and hour-long hovering at Godman Field, then the quick bursts of speed the pilots recorded make it completely impossible.

Then what was the mysterious object? And what caused Mantell’s F-51 to disintegrate in mid-air?

Both the Air Force report and the authorized magazine version speculate that Mantell carelessly let himself black out from lack of oxygen, after which his plane dived out of control and went to pieces.

Not only is this completely at variance with Mantell’s habits and intelligence, but it is explained with a peculiar difference in the two stories.

The magazine version, using the later denied “Venus” theory, pictures Mantell as climbing on up, watching the gleaming star, unaware of his dangerous altitude. At 25,000 feet he is presumed to have blacked out. His pilotless plane is pictured as going on up to 30,000 feet, then diving at full power and tearing itself apart.

The Air Force report, retracting the Venus idea, says that Mantell “probably” blacked out at 20,000 feet and died of suffocation before the crash.

Since some public explanation had to be given, this might seem a good answer. But Mantell was known for cool-headed judgment. As a wartime pilot, he was familiar with the signs of approaching anoxia (oxygen starvation). That he knew his tolerance for altitude is proved by his firmly declared decision to abandon the chase at 20,000 feet, since he lacked oxygen equipment.

He had his altimeter to warn him. More important, he would recognize from experience the first vague blurring, narrowing of vision, and other preliminary symptoms of anoxia. It would not have come on him with no warning at all.

Despite this, the speculation of “blackout” was published and accepted as a plausible explanation by many Americans.

It is the opinion of several engineers and pilots whom True has questioned that an F-51, a sturdy war-tested fighter, starting a dive from 20,000 feet would not have disintegrated so thoroughly.

“From thirty thousand, yes,” said one engineer. “If the idea was to explain it away, I’d pick a high altitude to start from. But a pilotless plane doesn’t necessarily dive. It might slip off and spin, or spiral down, and a few have even landed themselves.

“Also, if the plane started down from twenty thousand, the odds are the pilot would come to when he got into thicker air — admitting he had blurred out temporarily, which is only an Air Force guess. I don’t see why they’re so positive Mantell died before he hit the ground — unless they know something we don’t.”

One of the pilot group put it more bluntly.

“It looks like a cover-up to me. I think Mantell did just what he said he would — closed in on the thing. I think he either collided with it, or more likely they knocked him out of the air. They’d think he was trying to bring them down, barging in like that.”

So there is the Mantell case, to date. It seems to give a new, significant meaning to the following Air Force statements:

“No definite conclusive evidence is yet available to prove or disprove the existence of at least some of the remaining unidentified objects as real aircraft of unknown and unconventional configuration. . . . The mere existence of some yet unidentified flying objects necessitates a constant vigilance on the part of Project Saucer personnel, and on the part of the civilian population. . . . Report incidents as soon as possible to the nearest military installation or to Headquarters, Air Materiel Command, direct.” This statement, released fifteen months after Mantell’s death, also said: “The mysterious object which the flier chased to his death is still unidentified. . .

A True investigator discussed this report (A Digest of Preliminary Studies by the Air Materiel Command on ‘Flying Saucers,’ dated April 27, 1949) with the chief design engineer of a major aircraft manufacturing company. In view of the statements to be quoted from this man, who must necessarily be anonymous, it should be said that he is a hard-headed practical engineer of long experience, responsible for the design of aircraft known by name to every literate American.

“Certainly the flying saucers are possible,” he said. “Give me enough money and I’ll build you one. It might have to be a model because the fuel would be a problem. If the saucers that have been seen came from other worlds, which isn’t at all Buck Rogerish, they may be powered by atomic energy or by the energy that produces cosmic rays — which is many times more powerful — or by some other fuel or natural force that our research hasn’t yet discovered. But the circular airfoil is quite feasible.

“It wouldn’t have the stability of the conventional airplane, but it would have enormous maneuverability — it could rise vertically, hover, descend vertically, and fly at extremely high speed, with the proper power. Don’t take my word for it. Check with other engineers.”

True went then to the nation’s most authoritative source of aerodynamic knowledge, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. Two official N.A.C.A. reports, Technical Note 539 and Report 431, discuss tests on circular and elliptical Clark Y airfoils which proved they were feasible aerodynamically. At N.A.C.A. headquarters, one of their top engineers stated that a disk with variable-direction jet or rocket nozzles around the rim could rise and descend vertically, hover, fly straight ahead, and make sharp turns. Its direction and velocity would be governed by the number of nozzles operating, the power applied, and the angle at which they were tilted — toward the ground, rearward, in a lateral direction, or in various combinations. A disk flying level, straight ahead, could be turned swiftly to right or left by shifting the angle of the nozzles or cutting off power from part of the group. This method of control would operate in the Earth’s atmosphere and also, using rocket power, in free space, where conventional controls would be useless.

The aircraft designer quoted above shared the general views of the group which believes the disks are interplanetary. He pointed out sentences in the Air Force report:

“ ‘The possibility that some of the incidents . . . may represent technical developments far in advance of knowledge available to American engineers and scientists has been widely considered . . . observations based on experience with nuclear power-plant research in this country label as highly improbable the existence on Earth of engines small enough in size and weight to have powered any of the capricious saucers.’

“Look at those words, ‘on Earth,’ ” he said. “They’re not the normal way of discussing power possibilities. They must have been put there for some reason.”

A motive for the speculative scope of the lengthy Air Force report was offered by another aeronautical authority.

“It says that ‘In the next fifty years we will almost certainly start exploring space.’ Then it goes on to mention a thesis accepted by astronomers that there could be at least one ideally habitable planet for each of twenty-two certain stars known to us outside the solar system. It names Wolf 359 as one of the near stars. And here’s the tip-off line: ‘The chance of space travelers existing on planets outside the solar system is very much greater than the chance for space-traveling Martians. The one can be viewed as almost a certainty (if you accept the thesis that intelligent life is not peculiar to the Earth.)’ ”

“That’s a very strange admission. ‘Almost a certainty.’ I think that explains a lot. I think it explains the public statements about our own space-exploration plans: the talk about our plans to build an Earth satellite vehicle, a huge space-platform to circle the Earth about five hundred miles out. The public has been told about plans for a five-thousand-mile guided missile, cosmic-ray research, our hopes for atomic-powered aircraft, even a Moon rocket — stuff that not long ago was pure fantasy.

“I think that the American public is being gradually conditioned to think in terms of space travel. I think we are being prepared for what Project Saucer probably already knows: that the Earth is under surveillance by interplanetary travelers.

“Remember the New Jersey panic over the Orson Welles ‘Men From Mars’ broadcast?” he said. “I think the government may believe that disclosure of the disks’ probable origin would set off a nationwide hysteria. Personally, I doubt it would. I think Americans could take it.”

True learned that a rocket authority stationed at Wright Field has told Project Saucer personnel flatly that the saucers are interplanetary and that no other conclusion is possible. In the light of some of the sighting reports on the record, it is hard to disagree with him. Take the Chiles-Whitted case, for example.

At about 1:45 a. m., on July 24, 1948, a strange, flaming object came hurtling southward through the night skies over Robbins Air Force Base, Macon, Georgia. Observers at the base were astounded to see a huge, projectilelike craft race overhead, trailing a varicolored exhaust. It disappeared swiftly from sight.

About an hour later, an Eastern Airlines DC-3 was west of Montgomery, Alabama, en route to Atlanta. At the controls were Captain Clarence S. Chiles, a former Air Transport Command flyer, and Pilot John B. Whitted, who had flown B-29s during the war. It was a bright, moonlit night, with scattered clouds overhead.

Suddenly a brilliant, fast-moving object appeared ahead of them. At first, the two pilots took it to be an Air Force jet plane.

“We saw it at the same time,” Chiles told Project Saucer men later. “Whatever it was, it flashed down toward us and we veered to the left, it veered sharply, too, and passed us about seven hundred feet to our right and above us.”

“The thing was about a hundred leet long, cigar-shaped, and wingless,” Whitted described it. “It was about twice the diameter of a B-29, with no protruding fins.”

Captain Chiles said the cabin appeared like a pilot compartment, except for its eerie brilliance. Both he and Whitted agreed it was as bright as a magnesium flare. They saw no occupants, but at their speed of passing this was not surprising. It was later suggested that the strange glare could have come from a power plant of some unusual type.

“An intense dark blue glow came from the side of the ship,” Chiles reported. “It ran the entire length of the fuselage — like a blue fluorescent factory light. The exhaust was a red-orange flame, with a lighter color predominant around the outer edges.”

(This description paralleled the reports of observers at Robbins Air Force Base.)

Both pilots said the flame extended thirty to fifty feet behind the ship. As it passed, Chiles noted a snout like a radar pole. Both men glimpsed two rows of windows.

“Just as it went by,” said Chiles, “the pilot pulled up as if he had seen the DC-3 and wanted to avoid us. There was a tremendous burst of flame from the rear. It zoomed into the clouds, its jet or prop wash rocking our DC-3.”

Chiles’ later estimate of its speed was between 500 and 700 miles an hour.

As the object vanished, Chiles went back into the cabin to check with the passengers. Most had been asleep or were drowsing. But one man confirmed that they were in their right senses. This passenger, Clarence McKelvie of Columbus, Ohio, told them (and a Project Saucer team later) that he had seen a brilliant streak of light flash past his window. It had gone too swiftly for him to catch any details.

During the careful checkup by Project Saucer, Air Force engineers computed the probable speed and lift of the mystery craft. The ship was found to be within the bounds of aerodynamic laws Here is the Air Force statement:

“Application of the Prandtl theory of lift indicated that a fuselage of the dimensions reported by Chiles and Whitted could support a load comparable to the weight of an aircraft of this size, at flying speeds in the subsonic range.” (Subsonic speed is equivalent to Chiles’ estimate of 500-700 m.p.h.)

As interpreted by the N.A.C.A. for True, this statement simply means that an aircraft without wings, of the size described by the Eastern pilots, could fly and maneuver as reported, if propelled by sufficiently great force.

The publicized story of this “space ship” set off another scare — also the usual cracks about screwball pilots. But regardless of how much Project Saucer already knew, this evidently was a jolt. Chiles and Whitted were highly respected pilots. The passenger’s confirmation added weight. But even if all three had been considered deluded, the Air Force could not get around the similar reports from Robbins Air Force Base.

The authorized magazine version omitted all mention of the Robbins air-base sighting. It made no attempt to explain what the Eastern pilots saw, but stated that both men were sure they had not suffered hallucinations. The net effect was one of skeptical disbelief.

The Air Force report clearly indicates acceptance of the ground and air observers’ testimony that they did see some mysterious craft. It flatly admits that what these witnesses saw has not been identified.

Several other “ships” of the same type, reported by veteran pilots, also remain unidentified.

In August, 1947, two pilots for an Alabama flying service had a strange encounter with a huge, black, wingless craft, as reported to Project Saucer. It swept across their course, silhouetted against a brilliant evening sky. Shaped like a C-54, but larger, it had no wings, motors, or visible means of propulsion. The two pilots watched it cross their path, then swung in behind and attempted to follow. But at their speed of 170 m.p.h., they were soon outdistanced. Careful checking showed there were no other planes near by which could have been mistaken for the mystery ship.

Another wingless aircraft was later sighted at Jackson, Mississippi. Described as rocket-shaped, it speeded up from 200 to about 500 m.p.h. and swiftly disappeared. This ship was reported by a former Air Force pilot and his passenger.

Sightings of flying disks and rocketshaped craft have not been confined to the United States. Both types have been reported all over the globe — Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Holland, Turkey, Newfoundland, Paraguay, Rumania, the Philippines, the Hawaiian Islands, New Guinea and many other places.

To avoid ridicule, most pilots and observers now make reports privately; these have been averaging twelve a month, and Project Saucer, in its own words, is making a “serious, scientific evaluation” of the entire picture.

Several of those interviewed by True believe that the project experts do not have the lull answer, but are anxioush trying to fit the puzzle together. The project’s suspicions, however, are clearly evident. Planes whose pilots report close encounters with “flying saucers” are checked with Geiger counters for radioactivity. Astronomers, rocket experts, guided-missile consultants, aero-medical men and other specialists work on a hush-hush basis. Teams of Air Intelligence officers and technicians fly to any scene of a reliably reported sighting.

One case that apparently baffled project men was the mystifying “dogfight” which occurred one night at Fargo, North Dakota.

It was about 9 o’clock in the evening, October 1, 1948. Lieutenant George F. Gorman, former wartime instructor and now a National Guard pilot, was returning to Fargo Airport after a routine F-51 patrol flight. He had been cleared by the tower to land when he saw below him what appeared to be a taillight of a fast-moving plane.

Gorman called the tower to recheck his clearance. He was told the only other plane near by was a Piper Cub. Gorman could see the Cub plainly outlined below him — there was a night football game-going on and the field was brightly lighted.

But the Cub was nowhere near the strange light.

The light, blinking on and off, raced above the football field at a speed Gorman estimated at 250 m.p.h. Then he discovered a queer phenomenon. Instead of seeing the silhouette of a plane, he saw no shape at all around the light. By contrast, he could see the Cub’s outline clearly.

Meantime, the airport traffic controller, L. D. Jensen, had also spotted the mystery light. Concerned with the possibility of a collision — he said later he had supposed it to be the taillight of a swift-flying plane — he trained his binoculars on it. The light was also seen by another Civil Aeronautics Authority employe in the tower with Jensen. Both men saw it pass swiftly over the airport and watched the strange maneuvers that followed.

Up in the F-51, Gorman tried to close in on the light. It was still blinking on and off.

“As I approached,” he told Project Saucer men later, “it suddenly became steady and pulled into a sharp left turn. It was clear, white and completely round — about six to eight inches in diameter.

“I thought it was making a pass at the tower. I dived after it and brought my manifold pressure up to sixty inches, but I couldn’t catch up with the thing.”

Gorman reported his speed at full power as 350 to 400 m.p.h.

“When I attempted to turn with the light, I blacked out temporarily due to excessive speed. I am in fairly good physical condition, and I don’t believe there are many if any pilots who could withstand the turn and speed effected by the light and remain conscious.”

During these sharp maneuvers, the light climbed quickly, then made another left bank.

“I put my F-51 into a sharp turn and tried to cut it off in its turn,” said Gorman. “By then we were at about seven thousand feet. Suddenly it made a sharp right turn and we headed straight at each other. Just when we were about to collide 1 guess I got scared.

“I went into a dive and the light passed over my canopy at about five hundred feet. Then it made a left circle about a thousand leet above and I gave chase again.”

When collision seemed imminent a second time, the object shot straight up in the air. Gorman climbed after it at full throttle.

Just about this time, two other witnesses — a private pilot and his passenger — saw the fast-moving light. Both later agreed on its speed; the pilot supposed it to be a Canadian jet fighter from over the border. This was later proved unfounded. After landing at the airport, the pilot again watched the light and saw it change direction.

Despite the F-51’s fast climb, the light outclimbed him. At 14,000 feet, Gorman’s plane went into a power stall. The mysterious light then turned in a north-northwest direction and quickly disappeared. Throughout the “dogfight,” Gorman noticed no deviation on his instruments, no sounds, odors, or exhaust trails.

An astronomical check ruled out stars, fireballs, and comets — which the testimony of the witness precluded in the first place. As the Air Force stated, the only other conventional answer was hallucination — or a light on a balloon. In view of all the testimony, hallucination also was ruled out. And even the investigators pointed out that a balloon could not achieve the high speed and swift maneuvers of the light.

So, once again, a serious, competent report remains unanswered. The mystery light is, officially, unidentified.

What was it?

Among those who believe the flying disks exist, there is one group which clings to the idea that they are a highly secret U. S. Air Force experiment. It has been suggested that this was a remote-control disk with a transparent rim, fitted with a television or radar “eye” to scan whatever area it passed over.

Gorman described an odd fuzziness around the edge of the light. This could have been a blur reflected from the transparent airfoil rim. The glowing light would serve to conceal any central mechanism — Gorman said the light appeared to have “depth.” This would explain why Jensen’s binoculars also failed to reveal anything behind the light.

Assuming the existence of the flying disk, the rest would be fairly simple. We have already used remote-controlled planes with radar and television units to “observe” distant areas and flash back information.

This same group mentioned has a similar answer for the other authentic sightings. In this case, Project Saucer’s job would actually be to explain away or cover up accidental sightings in long-range tests. However, the Air Force has repeatedly denied any such operations, and True believes the evidence makes it impossible.

The other group among the flying-disk believers accepts the transparent light-disk answer — but is convinced it was controlled from an interplanetary craft hovering at high altitude, not by an Air Force plane.

Either explanation is in line with Gorman’s strong feeling that there was “thought” behind the light’s maneuvers.

“I am also convinced,” he said, “that it was governed by the laws of inertia. Its acceleration was rapid, but not immediate. And although it was able to turn fairly tight at considerable speed, it still followed a natural curve.”

Here are a few more of the unsolved, authentic disk sightings;

Muroc Air Base, supersecret test center. High-speed disks seen by test pilots, air-base personnel.

Fort Richardson, Alaska. Disk seen flying at tremendous speed by Army officers.

Philippine Islands. Lieutenant Robert Meyers, 67th, Fighter Wing, sighted highspeed mystery craft, able to make 90-degree instant turns.

Nine flying disks sighted by Captain E. J. Smith, his copilot, and stewardess, United Airlines.

Five disks, sighted by Fred M. Johnson, in Cascade Mountains. Watched through telescope; compass hand on his watch weaved wildly as disks banked overhead.

Approximately 300 reports have been made to Project Saucer. In an interview with Dr. J. A. Hynek. a project astronomer, a True investigator learned that 17 per cent have been ascribed to stars, planets, meteorites, etc. Dr. Hynek believed that perhaps more could be thus explained. However, he refused even to hazard a guess as to what the remaining large number of sighted objects might be.

The Air Force says that some 30 per cent of the saucer sightings have been explained, and more probably will be. But most of the solved cases have been the obvious hoaxes, illusions and hysterical reports which follow any widely discussed news. A request for access to Project Saucer’s 1947-48-49 sighting reports was denied, as expected. True was informed that only certain approved officers and officials were allowed access to any project files.

During interviews with Pentagon officials, including Air Force Secretary Stuart Symington, a True investigator confirmed reports of a confidential photograph file. The objects shown in the pictures were described as either too distant or blurred to be identified accurately. Some were said to be round, others were shadows on clouds.

If a flying disk were traveling at high speed, a blur could be expected. That all the pictures were not blank seems significant.

Later, another True investigator put this question to several Air Force officials:

“If all the flying saucers are bunk (as one top official declared) what is Project Saucer doing? Why wasn’t this costly unit closed long ago?”

The replies varied. Some were not answers at all. But they all boiled down to this:

No one will take the responsibility for closing Project Saucer — in case it turned out he was wrong.

I think they’re in a spot,” one service pilot summed it up. “They’ve obviously got a hot potato and don’t dare drop it. But one thing puzzles me. If the saucers are interplanetary, why haven’t they landed — or tried to make contact?”

True put the question to a number of those who believe the disks come from space. Here is one suggestion from a former intelligence officer.

“The Air Force report says that if spacemen were visiting the Earth without establishing contact, it could be assumed they had just recently progressed to space travel. In other words, they’d be not far ahead of our space plans — say forty to fifty years. Why don’t you just reverse it — list what we intend to do when we start exploring space? That’ll give you the approximate picture of what visitors to the Earth would be doing.”

Though our space explorations are only in the planning stage, the general program and some of the technical problems have already been indicated.

The Earth satellite vehicle will be the first attempt at a space base. It is expected to circle the Earth 500 miles out. Once in its orbit, with centrifugal force balancing the Earth’s gravitational pull, no fuel will be required except to correct its course. The next probable step will be a similar space base farther out. The Moon rocket is expected to add to our information about space, so that finally we will emerge with a long-range space ship.

The Air Force estimate of fifty years may be too small. It may take that long to establish the Earth satellite and launch our first Moon rocket. Our V-2 rockets indicate some of the problems. On the take-off, their present swift acceleration would undoubtedly kill anyone inside. When re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere, they get red-hot. Both the acceleration and deceleration must be controlled.

Escape from the Earth’s gravity is possible with present rocket motors, according to Francis H. Clauser, an authority on space-travel plans. (See: Flight Beyond the Earth’s Atmosphere, Society of Automotive Engineers Quarterly Transactions, Vol. 2, No. 4, October, 1948.) But the cost would be prohibitive, and practical operations must wait for higher-velocity rocket power, atomic or otherwise. Already, the V-2/Wac Corporal combination rocket has gone 250 miles out from the Earth — the V-2 dropping off when its power is exhausted, the Wac Corporal then proceeding on its own fuel.

But to escape Earth’s pull, a space vehicle must reach a speed of about 25,000 miles per hour. The necessary speed would be less for escaping from smaller planets (about 5,000 m.p.h. for the Moon). Once in free space, there would be no gravitational pull. Other possible sources of trouble, however, must be analyzed first — among them, the effect of cosmic rays, solar radiation, and collisions with meteorites.

Shielding is expected to offset cosmic or solar ray problems. The danger from meteorites has already been discounted in one scientific study. (See: Probability That a Meteorite Will Hit or Penetrate a Body Situated in the Vicinity of the Earth, by G. Grimminger, Journal of Applied Physics, Vol. 19, No. 10, pp. 947-956, October, 1948.) In this study, it is stated as improbable that a meteorite would penetrate the thick shell our space vehicles are expected to have. However, this applies only to the Earth’s atmosphere. Further study, probably with nonpiloted vehicles in free space, might be necessary to complete this investigation.

The Earth satellite vehicle will have to prove itself as a practical base, a sort of aerial aircraft carrier from which rocket ships can operate on the Earth shuttle. Before we are ready for interplanetary travel, we will have to harness some tremendous power not now available — perhaps cosmic rays. There may have to be other space bases established as refueling stations or navigation check points. Incredible as this sounds, intelligent scientists and engineers expect to do it in a few decades.

Which planet will be explored first? The Air Force says that Wolf 359 is a near star which may be found to have a habitable planet outside our solar system. To illustrate the steps involved, let us assume that a planet of Wolf 359 will be the one we shall explore first.

It will be a formidable undertaking. Once in free space, where there is no resistance, fantastic speeds are expected. Eventually, some researchers believe, free-space travel may achieve an appreciable percentage of the theoretical limit — the speed of light, which is about 186,000 miles per second. But Wolf 359 is eight light-years from the Earth. Assuming the attainment of as much as half the limiting speed, our space explorers will have to dedicate at least thirty-two years to the hazardous, lonely round trip. However, there has never been a lack of volunteers for grand undertakings in the history of man.

No one expects the attempt to be made until we have a space vehicle able to make the round trip and report back. One-way trips would tell the Earth nothing.

The most likely step will be to establish a space base which will circle the chosen planet in an orbit, like the proposed Earth satellite. Once in the orbit, it could circle indefinitely.

From this space base, unmanned remote-control “observer” units with television “eyes” would be sent down to survey the planet at close range. If it then seemed fairly safe, a manned unit could be released to make a more thorough checkup.

Such preliminary caution would be imperative. Our explorers would have no idea of what awaits them. The planet might be uninhabited. It might be peopled by a fiercely barbarous race. Or it might have a civilization far in advance of the Earth.

The explorers would first try to get a general idea of the whole planet. Then they would attempt to examine the most densely populated areas, types of armament, any aircraft likely to attack them. Combing the radio spectrum, they would pick up and record sounds and signals in order to decipher the language. As on the Earth, they might hear a hodgepodge of tongues. The next step would be to select the most technically advanced nation, listen in and try to learn its language — or record it for deciphering afterward on Earth.

To find out whether the planet’s atmosphere would support their lungs on later landings, our explorers would have to get samples fairly close to the planet’s surface. This would tell them whether they would need oxygen-helmet suits, such as we plan for use on the Moon.

But before risking flight at such low altitudes, the explorers would first learn everything possible about the planet’s aircraft — their top ceiling, maximum speed, maneuverability, and if possible their weapons. Much of this would be done by sending down small “observer” disks — or whatever type we develop. A manned space craft might make a survey at night, or in daytime with clouds near by to shield it. By hovering over the planet’s aircraft bases, the explorers would get most of the picture — and also decide whether the bases were suitable for their own use later.

If the appearance of our “observer” units and space craft caused too violent reactions on the planet, the explorers would probably withdraw to their orbiting space vehicle and either wait for a lull or else start the long trip back to Earth. Another interplanetary craft from Earth might take its place later to resume periodic surveys. In this way, a vast amount of information could be collected without once making contact with the strange race. If they seemed belligerent or uncivilized, we would probably end our survey and check on the next possibly inhabited planet. If we found they were highly civilized, we would undoubtedly attempt later contact. But, considering the long space trips involved, it might be decades before we would be ready to try it.

This, in general, is how some long-range planners believe our space explorations will develop. Now, if this program is reversed, it gives a reasonable picture of how visitors from space would go about investigating the Earth.

Such an investigation would tie in with the pattern of authentic saucer reports. Flying-disk believers list these points:

1. First, world-wide sightings. Then concentration on the United States, the most advanced nation.

2. The numerous small disks seen in the first part of the scare, which some think were “observers,” remotely controlled.

3. The frequent sightings at Air Force bases.

4. Later sightings of larger disks, and space-ship types, after the first disks outspeeded and outmaneuvered our planes.

5. Low-altitude appearances, over Lockbourne Air Force Base in Ohio, in Mississippi, etc., which could provide atmosphere samples.

6. The increase of mystery-light sightings, and night encounters, and decrease of reliably witnessed day sightings (when the scare had become nation-wide, and day operations might seem less wise).

“If they are spacemen,” one air-transport official suggested, “they’d probably have a hard time figuring out this country. Listening to our broadcasts would give them one hell of a picture — what with A-bombs, jet bombers, germ warfare, strikes, espionage, the cold war, politics, the radio plays, soap operas and the rest. Seriously, though, it might take men from another planet many years to orient their thinking and grasp our way of life. And though most people don’t know it, there have been saucer reports as far back as the eighteenth century.”

Checking this angle, True found that such reports have been recorded for more than 175 years. In the 19th century, British, French and other astronomical journals printed reports of round and torpedo-shaped objects and fast-moving lights seen in the skies. Official gazettes and scientific magazines carried similar reports. For example:

On March 22, 1880, several brilliantly luminous objects were reported seen at Kattenau, Germany. Sighted just before sunrise, they were described as rising from the horizon and moving from east to west. (British Nature Magazine, Vol. 22, p. 64.)

On December 28, 1883, a huge luminous disk was reported sighted in the Persian Gulf. It was described by the captain and third mate of the British India steamship “Patna” as whirling under the water. Apparently it had just fallen there, out of control (British Magazine of Knowledge, 1883).

In the U. S. Weather Bureau’s Monthly Weather Review, 1907, page 310: on July 2, 1907, a mysterious explosion occurred in the heavens near Burlington, Vermont. Something round and luminous fell from the sky, said by some witnesses to come from a strange, torpedo-shaped object.

Monthly Weather Review, Vol. 4, page 599: on April 8, 1913, a strange shadow was sighted on the clouds at Fort Worth, Texas. It appeared to come from an unseen body above. As the cloud moved, the shadow remained in the same position. (This is similar to a recent report from Newfoundland, where a photograph of a reported saucer showed an odd cloud effect.)

In the last hundred years, there have been many such reports from all parts of the world. There was then no newspaper furore, no radio to set off hysteria. Most witnesses never heard of the other cases. Numerous reports were made by serious, reputable citizens. Even discounting 95 per cent of them, there is a solid core hard to dismiss.

Advocates of the “long observation” theory believe that only a few round trips by space visitors have been made in the past, because of the travel time required. Yet such trips might not seem long to spacemen, they suggest, since it is conceivable that these beings might have much greater life spans than ours, in which case such exploring trips would seem no more to them than two years at the South Pole to Admiral Byrd.

The sudden spurt of sightings in 1947 might indicate that we have attracted attention with our V-2 rockets, A-bomb explosions, and other experiments, and that an orbiting satellite base has been established, or re-established after an absence.

In its eight months’ investigation, True has not ignored the skeptics nor the sincere disbelievers in even our own long-range missile and space-vehicle plans. This group believes that all the saucers were mistakes, illusions, hoaxes, hysteria and mass hallucination. In the Gorman case, the Eastern Airlines sighting, and other authentic cases, they insist all the witnesses were either deluded or lying. They dismiss the whole thing as bunk.

It is the opinion of True that the flying saucers are real and that they come from no enemy on Earth. It is also True’s opinion that the Air Forces and Project Saucer are doing a serious, important job to safeguard American security. True accepts the official denial of any secret device because the weight of the evidence, especially the world-wide sighting, does not support such a belief.

There has been no sign of belligerence in any of the saucer cases — except perhaps in the tragic case of Mantell. If he was downed by spacemen, they could logically have feared they were in danger. Even the stoutest believers in the disks do not think any mass invasion from space is possible at this time.

It would seem wiser, if space visitors are suspected, to tell Americans the truth. Having survived the impact of the Atomic Age, we should be able to take the Interplanetary Age, when it comes, without hysteria. The idea of space travel is not nearly so fantastic as our present swift planes would have seemed to George Washington and other early Americans.

Even if the present saucers should prove of earthly origin, we should be prepared for the eventual relinquishing of the idea that we, men and women of the Earth, are the only intelligent species in the universe.

The Project Saucer frequency graph shows that sightings began in January, 1947, reached a peak in July, began again in January, 1948, hit another peak in July.

January, 1950, may repeat the cycle.

There is reason to think the Signal Corps’ radar contact with the Moon proves their readiness to probe space and locate any approaching visitors. A surprise revelation might come in 1950. Again, we may not be contacted by spacemen for years — perhaps not until after our own explorations begin.

Meantime, no matter what you suspect is behind the secret curtain of Project Saucer, you can believe the laconic Air Force warning:

“The saucers are not a joke.”

— Donald E. Keyhoe

One response to ““The Flying Saucers Are Real”—A Vintage Article by Major Donald E. Keyhoe, TRUE Magazine January 1950

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