The Flying Saucers
by Donald Keyhoe
It was a strange assignment.
I picked up the telegram from my desk and read it a third time.
NEW YORK, N.Y., MAY 9, 1949 HAVE BEEN INVESTIGATING FLYING SAUCER MYSTERY. FIRST TIP HINTED GIGANTIC HOAX TO COVER UP OFFICIAL SECRET. BELIEVE IT MAY HAVE BEEN PLANTED TO HIDE REAL ANSWER. LOOKS LIKE TERRIFIC STORY. CAN YOU TAKE OVER WASHINGTON END? KEN W. PURDY, EDITOR, TRUE MAGAZINE
I glanced out at the Potomac, recalling the first saucer story. As a pilot, I'd been skeptical of flying disks. Then reports had begun to pour in from Air Force and airline pilots. Apparently alarmed, the Air Force had ordered fighters to pursue the fast-flying saucers. In one mysterious chase, a pilot had been killed, and his death was unexplained. That had been seventeen months ago. Since then, the whole flying-saucer riddle had been hidden behind a curtain of Air Force secrecy.
And now, an assignment from True magazine on flying saucers.
Twenty-four hours later, I was in Ken Purdy's office.
"I've had men on this for two months," he told me. "I might as well warn you, it's a tough story to crack."
"You think it's a Russian missile?" I asked him. "Or an Air Force secret?"
"'We've had several answers. None of them stacks up. But I'm positive one was deliberately planted when they found we were checking."
He told me the whole story of the work that had been done by the staff of True and of the reports sent in by competent writers. The deeper he delved into the mystery, the tougher the assignment got. The more I learned about flying saucers, the less I knew.
"There's one angle I want rechecked," Purdy said. "You've heard of the Mantell case?"
"O.K. Try to get the details of Mantell's radio report to Godman Tower. Before he was killed, he described the thing he was chasing - we know that much. Project 'Saucer' gave out a hint, but they've never released the transcript. Here's another lead. See if you can find anything about a secret picture, taken at Harmon Field, Newfoundland - it was around July 1947. I'll send you other ideas as I get them."
Before I left, Purdy wished me luck and told me that he would work in closest harmony with me.
"But watch out for fake tips," he said. "You'll probably run into some people at the Pentagon who'll talk to you 'off the record.' That handcuffs a writer. Look out they don't lead you into a blind alley. Even the Air Force statements and the Project 'Saucer' report contradict each other."
For six months, I worked with other investigators to solve the mystery of the disks. We checked a hundred sighting reports, frequently crossing the trail Project "Saucer" teams and F.B.I. agents. Old records gave us fantastic leads. So did Air Force plans for exploring space. Rocket experts, astronomers, Air Force officials and pilots gave us clues pointing to a startling solution. Many intelligent persons - including scientists - believe that the saucers contain spies from another planet.
When this first phase was ended, we were faced with a hard decision. We had uncovered important facts We knew the saucers were real. If it was handled carefully we believed the story would be in line with a secret Air Force policy.
It was finally decided to publish certain alternate conclusions. The Air Force was informed of True's intentions, no attempt was made to block publication.
In the January 1950 issue of True, I reported that we had reached the following conclusions:
- The earth has been observed periodically by visitors from another planet.
- This observation has increased markedly in the past two years.
"The only other possible explanation," I wrote, "is that the saucers are extremely high-speed, long-range devices developed here on earth. Such an advance (which the Air Force has denied) would require an almost incredible leap in technical progress even for American scientists and designers."
Nation-wide press and radio comment followed the appearance of the article. This publicity was obviously greater than the Air Force had expected. Within twenty-four hours the Pentagon was deluged with telegrams, letters and long-distance calls. Apparently fearing a panic the Air Force hastily stated that flying-saucer reports - even those made by its own pilots and high-ranking officers - were mistakes or were caused by hysteria.
insert 1: Air Force press release 629-49, December 27. 1949.
But three days later, when it was plain that many Americans calmly accepted True's disclosures, the Air Force released a secret Project "Saucer" file containing this significant statement:
"It will never be possible to say with certainty that any individual did not see a space ship, an enemy missile or other object."
In this same document there appears a confidential analysis of Air Intelligence reports.2 It is this summary that contains the official suggestion of space visitors' motives After stating that such a civilization would obviously be far ahead of our own, the report adds:
insert 2: Air Force Project "Saucer" Report, December 30, 1949.
"Since the acts of mankind most easily observed from a distance are A-bomb explosions, we should expect some relation to obtain between the time of the A-bomb explosions, the time at which the space ships are seen, and the time required for such ships to arrive from and return to home base."
(In a previous report , which alternately warned and reassured the public, the Air Force stated that space travel outside the solar system is almost a certainty.)
insert 3: Air Force report M-26-49, Preliminary Studies on Flying Saucers, April 27, 1949.
Since 1949 there has been a steady increase in saucer sightings. Most of them have been authentic reports, which Air Force denials cannot disprove. In January, mystery disks were reported over Kentucky, Indiana, Texas, Pennsylvania, and several other states. On the Seattle Anchorage route, an air freighter was paced for five minutes by a night-flying saucer. When the pilots tried to close in, the strange craft zoomed at terrific speed. Later, the airline head reported that Intelligence officers had quizzed the pilots for hours.
"From their questions," he said, "I could tell they had a good idea of what the saucers are. One officer admitted they did, but he wouldn't say any more."
Another peculiar incident occurred at Tucson, Arizona, on February 1. Just at dusk, a weird, fiery object raced westward over the city, astonishing hundreds in the streets below. The Tucson Daily Citizen ran the story next day with a double-banner headline:
FLYING SAUCER OVER TUCSON?
B-29 FAILS TO CATCH OBJECT
Flying saucer? Secret experimental plane? Or perhaps a scout craft from Mars?
Certainly the strange aircraft that blazed a smoke trail over Tucson at dusk last
night defies logical explanation. It was as mystifying to experienced pilots as to
groundlings who have trouble in identifying conventional planes.
Cannonballing through the sky, some 30,000 feet aloft, was a fiery object, shooting
westward so fast it was impossible to gain any clear impression of its shape or size...
At what must have been top speed the object spewed out light colored smoke, but
almost directly over Tucson it appeared to hover for a few seconds. The smoke
puffed out an angry black and then became lighter as the strange missile appeared
to gain speed.
The radio operator in the Davis-Monthan air force base control tower contacted
First Lt. Roy L. Jones, taking off for a cross-country flight: in a B-29, and asked
him to investigate. Jones revved up his swift aerial tanker and still the unknown
aircraft steadily pulled away toward California.
Dr. Edwin F. Carpenter, head of the University of
Arizona department of astronomy, said he was certain that the object was not a
meteor or other natural phenomenon...
Switchboards at the Pima county sheriff's office and Tucson police station were
jammed with inquiries. Hundreds saw the object. Tom Bailey, 1411 E. 10th Street,
thought it was a large airplane on fire. [A later check showed no planes missing.)
He said it wavered from left to right as it passed over the mountains. Bailey also
noticed that the craft appeared to slow perceptibly over Tucson. He said the smoke
apparently came out in a thin, almost invisible stream, gaining substance within a few
This incident had an odd sequel the following day. Its significance was not lost on the Daily Citizen. It ran another front-page story, headlined:
WHAT DO YOU MEAN ONLY VAPOR TRAIL?
As though to prove itself blameless for tilting hundreds of Tucson heads skyward, the
U.S. Air Force yesterday afternoon spent hours etching vapor trails through the skies
over the city.
The demonstration proved conclusively to the satisfaction of most that the strange path
of dark smoke blazed across the evening sky at dusk Wednesday was no vapor trail
and did not emanate from any conventional airplane.
The Wednesday night spectacle was entirely dissimilar. Then, heavy smoke boiled and
swirled in a broad, dark ribbon fanning out at least a mile in width and stretching across
the sky in a straight line. Since there was no proof as to what caused the strange predark
manifestation, and because even expert witnesses were unable to explain the appearance,
the matter remains a subject for interesting speculation.
There is strong evidence that this story was deliberately kept off the press wires. The Associated Press and other wire services in Washington had no report. Requests for details by Frank Edwards, Mutual newscaster, and other radio commentator ran into a blank wall. At the Pentagon I was told that the Air Force had no knowledge of the sighting or the vapor-trail maneuvers.
On February 22 two similar glowing objects were seen above Boca Chica Naval Air Station at Key West. A plane sent up to investigate was hopelessly outdistanced; it was obvious the things were at a great height. Back at the station, radarmen tracked the objects as they hovered for a moment above Key West. They were found to be at least fifty miles above the earth. After a few seconds, they a accelerated at high speed and streaked out of sight.
On the following day Commander Augusto Orrego, a Chilean naval officer, reported that saucers had flown above his Antarctic base.
"During the bright Antarctic night," he said, "we saw flying saucers, one above the other, turning at tremendous speeds. We have photographs to prove what we saw."
Early in March, Ken Purdy phoned the latest developments in the investigation. He had just received a tip predicting a flurry of saucer publicity during March. It had come from an important source in Washington.
"You know what it probably means," he said. "The same thing we talked about last month. But why were we tipped off in advance?"
"It's one more piece in the pattern," I said. "If the tip's on the level, then they're stepping up the program."
Within three days, reports began to pour in - from Peru, Cuba, Mexico, Turkey, and other parts of the world. Then on March 9 a gleaming metallic disk was sighted over Dayton, Ohio. Observers at Vandalia Airport phoned Wright Patterson Field. Scores of Air Force pilots and groundmen watched the disk, as fighters raced up in pursuit The mysterious object streaked vertically skyward, hovered for a while miles above the earth, and then disappeared. A secret report was rushed to the Civil Aeronautics Authority in Washington, then turned over to Air Force Intelligence.
Soon after this Dr. Craig Hunter, director of a medical supply firm, reported a huge elliptical saucer flying at a low altitude in Pennsylvania. He described it as metallic, with a slotted outer rim and a rotating ring just inside.
On top of this sighting, thousands of people at Farmington, New Mexico, watched a large formation of disks above the city.
Throughout all these reports, the Air Force refused to admit the existence of flying saucers. On March 18 it flatly denied they were Air Force secret missiles or space-exploration devices.
Three days later, a Chicago and Southern airliner crew saw a fast-flying disk near Stuttgart, Arkansas. The circular craft, blinking a strange blue-white light, pulled up in an arc at terrific speed. The two pilots said they glimpsed lighted ports on the lower side as the saucer zoomed above them. The lights had a soft fluorescence, unlike anything they had seen.
There was one peculiar angle in the Arkansas incident. There was no apparent attempt to muzzle the two pilots, as in earlier airline cases. Instead, a United Press interview was quickly arranged, for nation-wide publication. In this wire story Captain Jack Adams and First Officer C. W. Anderson made two statements:
"We firmly believe that the flying saucer we saw over Arkansas was a secret experimental type aircraft - not a visitor from outer space...
"We know the Air Force has denied there is anything to this flying-saucer business, but we're both experienced pilots and we're not easily fooled."
The day after this story appeared, I was discussing it with an airline official in Washington.
"That's an odd thing," he said. "The Air Force could have persuaded those pilots - or the line president - to hush the thing up. It looks as if they wanted that story broadcast."
"You mean the whole thing was planted?"
"I won't say that, though it could have been. Probably they did see something. But they might have been told what to say about it."
"Any idea why?"
He looked at me sharply. "You and Purdy probably know the answer. At a guess, I'd say it might have planned to offset that Navy commander's report - the one on the White Sands sightings."
The White Sands case had puzzled many skeptics, because the Pentagon had cleared the published report. The author, Commander R. B. McLaughlin, was a regular Navy officer. As a Navy rocket expert, he had been stationed at the White Sands Rocket Proving Ground in New Mexico. In his published article he described three disk sightings at White Sands.
One of the disks, a huge elliptical craft, was tracked by scientists with precision instruments at five miles per second. That's 18,000 miles per hour. It was found to be flying fifty-six miles above the earth. Two other disks, smaller types, were watched from five observation posts on hills at the proving ground. Circling at incredible speed, the two disks paced an Army high-altitude rocket that had just been launched, then speeded up and swiftly outclimbed the projectile.
Commander McLaughlin's report, giving dates and factual details, was cleared by the Department of Defense. So was a later nation-wide broadcast:
Then the Air Force made its routine denial.
Why was McLaughlin, a regular Navy officer subject to security screening, permitted to give out this story? Was it an incredible slip-up? Or was it part of some carefully thought-out plan? I believe it was part of an elaborate program to prepare the American people for, a dramatic disclosure.
For almost a year I have watched the behind-the-scenes maneuvers of those who guide this program. In the following chapters I have tried to show the strange developments in our search for the answer; the carefully misleading tips, the blind alleys we entered, the unexpected assistance, the confidential leads, and the stunning contradictions.
It has been a complicated jigsaw puzzle. Only by seeing all parts of this intricate picture can you begin to glimpse the reasons for this stubbornly hidden secret.
The official explanation may be imminent. When it is finally revealed, I believe the elaborate preparation - even the wide deceit involved - will be fully justified in the minds of the American people.
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